I can’t specify the moment my anorexia began, but I can remember restricting my food intake as early as the 5th grade. At the time I placed all the blame on dance. I needed to be “healthy” and “in shape” and “thin”. But it really had very little to do with dance.
I grew up in a family where I quietly existed in the background, behind all the noise. My mom extremely depressed and suffering from severe OCD and my dad a man with two personalities who became violent at the drop of a hat. With a baby sister in the picture, and my mom much like a child herself, I became mom, protector and comforter.
I grew up unnoticed. I grew up taking care of every one else and I never learned that it was okay to take care of myself as well.
I was (am) a perfectionist and people-pleaser. I did everything I was supposed to and more.
And yet somehow I never felt like it was enough. I was convinced that I wasn’t enough and at the same time I was too much. As the years dragged on I came to believe that at the very core of my being, I was a bad person.
I suppose years of listening to my mom berate and punish herself, drilled the belief into my head that I deserved that treatment as well. I don’t know why I did, but I did. And I suppose that years of my father using my body as he pleased taught me that my body was worthless and an object to be abused.
I remember the first time I decided to stop eating. I was a freshman in high school rehearsing for the school musical. I don’t know why then, but for three weeks all I ate each day was a banana.
Why only three weeks?
My mom began to notice not only the weight loss but also the scars on my arms from puncturing and dragging my razor across my skin. Her reaction was not what I was expecting…”This is ridiculous. I did those things when I was your age, but I had a reason to be doing them.”
From that moment I learned very well how to keep the perfect secret.
I would go downstairs early before my mom awoke just so that I could put dishes in the sink in order to make her think I had breakfast or put a couple pieces of food on a paper plate and then shove it in the trash can to make it look like I had lunch. I knew exactly what to say to avoid questions and suspicion.
I was a master at my disease.
I was a master until I wasn’t. Until I crumbled into a mess of a being. Before my first round of inpatient treatment I went off to college where I spent my days starving myself and exercising and then eating my roommates hot Cheetos at night, only to hate myself afterwards and purge in the community restroom. And let me tell you that if there is one food you don’t want to purge, it’s hot Cheetos. It became so out of control that I couldn’t hide it anymore and was forced into treatment.
One would think that the moment right before round 1 of inpatient treatment would be someone’s rock bottom, and maybe for some it is, but for me that certainly wasn’t the case.
I spent the next 4 years relapsing and going back to treatment, relapsing and going back to treatment…each relapse worse than the one before it.
It came to the point where my treatment team was scared for my life, crying for me to get help. And now my mom was too…
There was one night in particular that is forever etched in my mind. For months I had spent every day in bed, eating less than 300 calories, and walking 3-4 miles a day, while also using laxatives and purging my consumed food.
We had a plumbing issue and our toilet flooded the entire downstairs. As we worked to resolve the issue and clean the house, I panicked. I had taken my nightly dose of laxatives, as I always did, except I didn’t have a restroom. I stood in the living room yelling at my mom that I needed to go to the bathroom and frustrated she told me I would have to hold it.
The problem was I couldn’t. I blurted out that I’d taken laxatives and sped to the nearest store. When I came home and the house was finally sanitized, I sat in the middle of the floor exhausted. My mom burst into tears begging me to go back to treatment. She exclaimed “I can’t sit back anymore while watching you slowly kill yourself every day.”
I didn’t know how it had gotten so bad so fast, and I didn’t even realize it until that moment.
I knew then that I had a disease I could not control. That I was powerless to this eating disorder. That I was an anorexic.
I proceeded to go back into treatment and unfortunately that relapse wasn’t my last.
I’ve now been out of treatment for over a year. I was doing better than I’d ever had in my recovery. And now I’m back to starving…
The cycle never ends…