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Dying to be Thin
Share Your Story
Set #6
Posted December 20, 2000
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What I have gone through and what I am still going through does not fit quite well with any of the textbook symptoms of anorexia or bulimia. I am 19 years old, and I've been fighting with this disease of the mind and body for a little over one year now. It seems to have been around for awhile, because I have always been concerned with my appearance.

During the summer of 1999 I traveled to Germany as an exchange student, and that seems to be where I developed my disorder. While I was there I felt more insecure than I have ever felt before. I started using exercise as an outlet, and my eating became less. My family noticed this when I got home but I brushed it off as their delusion as to the way I should look (I thought I looked pretty good). I got a job during the school year and I took some really difficult courses, but through all of that I managed to squeeze I about two and a half hours of exercise a day. Eventually my body gave out. Constant studying with no food except during daily meals, waking up at 3:00 a.m. or earlier to get in an hour of exercise finally took its toll. I have since then been seeing a psychiatrist and I believe I will eventually win this battle.

But the reason this case is different is because instead of binging and throwing the food back up, I don't even swallow it. Instead, I spit it out into the toilet or sink and hide the remains. I conviced myself for awhile that this was not actually a disorder, but now I believe it to be yet another manifestation of either anorexia, bulimia, or both.

Just for the record, I am a man. This can happen to anyone.

Anonymous

I am not going to go into details of how I did it, how much I weighed, or why it happened. Don't need to go there anymore. I was anorexic, was being the key word. I have heard this kind of story before, and I always questioned whether the alleged recovered anorexic was really anorexic at one time or not. I struggled so to get better, and I did not see how it would ever be possible to "recover." If you are wondering the same about me, ask me for details. I'll give you the grizzly story.

Right now, though, I want to say that "recovery" is possible. I was in therapy for 15 years, and yet for 15 of those years I did not honestly want to give it up. I understood all that my various therapists would tell me, but I did not "hear" what they were saying. I did not want to hear them. A part of my mind laughed at them, mocked them for their idealistic theories. I cherished my ability to prove their credentials wrong. I loved my anorexia, and no one could take it away.

Fast forward about 15 years, when I was at a "normal" weight, but doing the most irrational thing I could have imagined: stealing my dog's medication to alter my metabolism. Eventually I ended up in cardiac failure, my body screaming for relief from the war I engaged in. I was, and am, so very, very lucky. At that point, in the cardiac unit, I realized the ramifications of what I was doing to myself. I realized it was a one-way ticket to death. I realized that *I* was doing it to myself, I was in control of what I was doing, I could finally do something about it. What probably helped, too, was that my marriage was abusive in many different ways, too. When I realized that I did not deserve the abuse from him, I realized that I did not deserve the abuse from myself. I was, and am, so lucky. I ran like hell, from him, from the anorexia.

And I am here to tell you that there is RECOVERY. Recovery is the most beautiful thing in my life. I have peace, in my life, and within myself. I understand the gift of life, and I take great strides to treat that gift with the utmost care. Do I still struggle? Indeed I do. But the serenity of life, of having a calm mind and body, far outweighs the small little voice of anorexia in my past.

It has only been five months since I spontaneously "recovered." All I can say is that these past five months have been a blessing to me. They have given me the strength to carry on. There is a great likelihood that my life will be short: I have done irreparable damage to my body. In the time I have left, though, I will be thankful for each day. I will be on my knees, thanking my God, for the gift of life.

Hang on, folks. Life is worth the ride.

Anonymous

I am a 21-year-old who has struggled on and off with bulimia and anorexia for the last six years. It all started when I was in ninth grade with a simple diet. I am an extreme perfectionist, I always had to get A's in school, and I was in every extracurricular activity known. I guess being thin was just one more aspect to my "perfect" self. It got to the point where I was throwing up up to 15 times per day.

What I really want to say is it's not worth it. At first it may not seem like it, but an eating disorder soon becomes your entire life. All you think about, your only friend, yet your worst enemy. It controls your mind and traps you. Both anorexia and bulimia are extremely dangerous. For awhile I thought anorexia was more deadly than bulimia and that's when I began more bulimic behaviors. This is not true! Just because you may not be as thin as someone with anorexia does not mean your body is not in as much danger as theirs. I endured many emergency-room visits where I was given potassium orally and intravenously because I had depleted it due to vomiting and laxative abuse. This can seriously affect your heart and cause dehydration as well. Lucky enough, after two lengthy hospitalizations, I can consider myself on the "road to recovery."

Recovery is not an easy process. What you really need to do is to come to terms with reality. Realize that you are IMPORTANT. Realize that scales are for fish! Decide to take the BIG step and enter a treatment program, seek out others for support, love yourself. One thing I found helpful was to choose something to do for myself to divert me from my eating disorder. I felt like all I was known for was my E.D., everything in life revolved around my E.D., and I was sick of that. I decided I wanted to be known for something better than that, so now I'm in college on my way to being a pharmacist.

Sadly, about one month ago I found out one of the girls in the hospital with me had died. We cannot let this happen to us. Believe it, people die from this. If you need help, get it as soon as possible and strive as hard as you do for everything else in your life, to get better. I know a lot of you are perfectionists! Remember that "perfectionism is self-abuse."

Anna from Minnesota

I have contemplated whether I should write. After reading other people's stories, I have decided to do so. My main concern with this was whether my honesty would give other struggling girls/women ideas and stir up the competition in them. I know for me, I used to love to read or hear about people's stories, because then I had a source of comparison. I was very perfectionistic and competitive, and I hated myself. If I saw a speaker who didn't look emaciated, I would glow inside inwardly because I knew I was "better" than her. When people talked about themselves being at a very low weight, I would be happy that I weighed less than they did. Anyway, I will share my story, but I'll just give the general gist.

My anorexia started back in 1993, when I was 15, the summer before going to high school (10th grade). I started out on a low-fat craze—eat less fat and protein—which turned into a vicious downward spiral. My first hospitalization was in October of that year, and it was my first diagnosis as an "anorectic." Neither I nor my family believed it, so after several medical tests to make sure I was not losing weight due to medical reasons, I was discharged and referred to a psychiatrist and nutritionist, who were not specialists in E.D.s. To make a long story short, after a few months of treatment with them, I stopped seeing them and continued my journey of weight loss. I was eating three "balanced" meals a day, so I didn't see how I could be anorectic. What I really missed was that I was, for very "legitimate" reasons, not really eating all that I had prepared.

My parents threatened hospitalization, but I didn't believe them. After not gaining weight in another outpatient treatment program, I was shipped off to my first treatment center at Remuda Ranch. I gained weight, went home, saw a therapist/nutritionist/family therapist, was dumped by my therapist because I didn't maintain my weight, and was rehospitalized the next summer at Craig Johnson's place in Oklahoma. Came out of that program, lived in a different environment, but alas, I was still not ready to "get better." I never had set my mind on recovery, and I was only going through the motions during treatment.

Needless to say, I crashed again, this time in half a year. Hospitalized for the next three and a half months, came home one month, got down to my all-time lowest weight, and basically died for three hours while the doctors were trying to revive me. The docs told my parents that I was not going to live through the weekend and to be prepared. I didn't know this until later. It was a miracle that I did not die. I was tube-fed for the next one and a half months, sent off to another hospital, and then sent to Tim Walsh's program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. I made the most progress there. Since then, I have never been hospitalized again, and though I lost weight after treatment, it was not a substantial amount.

Why? Well, I don't want you thinking that all the other programs I attended were horrible. They weren't. In fact, they were much better than NYSPI's. In fact, they were luxurious. From a resort-like setting, to a loving environment, to finally, a downright psychiatric institution feel with less loving staff. My final hostpitalization was also my last resort. I had no psychiatric insurance left, and I had to go there, or else I had nowhere else to go. My parents, relatives, friends all didn't want me with them because they knew I was killing myself and didn't want to take part in it. The only thing my parents could do was find me the "free" research program. My main problem throughout this entire journey was that I was not ready to "get better." I openly told the staff that I wanted to see the bones, to remain anorexic, to FEEL SAFE. I did not want to be mediocre, and to me, normal was mediocre. I wanted to stand out from the crowd, to receive the attention I got for being thin. I hate myself.

Did anything ever "click" for me, as some people say happens? No. It was a very, very gradual process. Being independent did a lot for me. I loved the vitality in New York, being independent, and being able to direct the life I wanted to have. I still wanted to be thin, but I wanted to be free too. I had too many hospitalizations for me to want me to go back. I never thought I would be able to break free from the torment of food and concern about weight. NEVER in my life would I have predicted myself to be free from concern about food and weight, to be able to eat anything I wanted to eat when I wanted to eat without any rules or regulations. I finally have. In the past year or so, I have gotten to a point in which I don't care anymore. Not that I don't care about myself, but I finally realized that,

1) Only I can give myself what I want. No one else knows what I want unless I verbalize it. I can't expect them to give me what I want the way I want it all the time. No one is a mind reader.

2) I am alive. I can either live miserably, or I can live happily.

3) Being skinny did not make me more popular, happier, or any better. On the contrary, I have more fulfillling friendships, am living more carefreely, and think I am good the way I am right now, when I am at my all-time highest weight.

Many more things, but this is what I have time to write for now. As impossible as it feels, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can't see it right now. I have two other friends who have recovered completely, each from one of the "professional" treatment centers at which I had stayed. I'm the only one doing well out of my friends from my last hospitalization. I think the main thing for me was time. No matter how much "quality" treatment I received, nothing was going to happen until I didn't battle it. It's so hard when you're so engrossed with the E.D., but when you actually choose to free yourself from it, it can be the most rewarding thing. I will never regret having an E.D., because it has helped me to discover who I am and to become the assertive young woman I am today.

Anonymous

Hi. I'm a 17-year-old high school senior. I've been battling an eating disorder for abour a year and a half. I've done it all—fasting for days on end, purging, diet pills, excessive exercising, etc. When the eating disorder wasn't enough of a coping mechanism, I moved on to cutting. I have multiple scars on my wrists and upper arms from using blood to express my pain. I've been in recovery for about six months. I feel like I have an angel on one shoulder, telling me that I deserve recovery and it's okay to eat, and a devil on the other, constantly putting me down and telling me how worthless I am.

I'm a student at a math and science residential magnet school. In April, after I cut myself for the first time, the school told me that I needed to leave and get help. I was placed in a children's crisis center for two weeks. I was then moved to an eating disorder's program at a local hospital. I was discharged after a month in the program—three weeks as an inpatient and two weeks as a day patient. In that month, I was diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, in addition to the eating disorder. I missed the last seven weeks of my junior year of high school.

I have been out of the hospital for exactly six months. I wish I could say that everything is a nice smooth road, but I'd be lying. I still fast on occasion, even purge once in a while. Counting calories is a habit that I think will take me years to overcome. I had been hoping to return to my school for the fall of my senior year. Unfortunately, when it came time for me to pack and move back into the dorm, my treatment team (medical doctor, nutritionist, and therapist) all agreed that I wasn't ready to be back in a less structured environment. I've spent the semester taking classes at a local college, and working as hard as I can to recover.

I've come far enough that I'm going to return to my boarding school in January. I'm excited; I'm scared. What will happen? How will people react to me being back? Will I be able to continue on the path to recovery?

The eating disorder has cost me so much. My goal two years ago was to go to a good college and become a scientist. Those are still my long-term goals. However, my goal right now is to graduate from high school. I never thought that I'd be worrying about earning my diploma. I always assumed that illnesses, whether they were cancer, mono, or eating disorders, afflicted other people. It never occurred to me that I'd have to fight a disease as well.

I don't regret having an eating disorder. I've learned and experienced so much that I would have never have understood without the E.D. I'm learning that I'm not a freak, or a nut, or whatever label society puts on me. The month I spent in the hospital was the happiest and safest month I'd had for years. I wouldn't trade it for anything. However, I'll never get back my high school years. I hurt my parents. I hurt my friends and caused everyone I knew needless anxiety and worry. I wish I could travel back in time several years, knowing what I know now, and save everyone all the tears I caused them.

Anonymous

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