Warning: I mention numbers in this post
From February 26 through March 3 it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I am so happy that there is a week dedicated to such an important cause. It pains me to know that there are millions of people around the United States, and the whole world for that matter, that are suffering through an eating disorder. Some may be suffering less than I was; some may be suffering more than I was. Either way, it’s suffering, which is not okay.
People need to be living their lives happily. Not looking in the mirror picking out countless things they hate about themselves. Not counting every calorie they consume. Not counting every calorie purged through vomiting, laxatives or exercise. Not avoiding interacting with others. Not being depressed. Not putting their lives at risk.
I didn’t even know that I had anorexia until about a week before I was shipped off to inpatient treatment. In reality, I believe that my eating disorder began in my Junior year of high school. When I left for treatment I was beginning my second semester of my Freshman year in college. I was depressed. I was lying to my family and friends. I was secluded from everything. I was in treatment for 45 days. I had an almost-relapse when I got out. I needed to be monitored like a child to get back on track.
When I was admitted to Remuda East in Bowling Green, Virginia, I was eating a half grapefruit during the day, a normal dinner with my parents so they wouldn’t suspect anything and a cup of sugar-free strawberry Jell-o with fat-free whipped cream on top. I weighed a meager 82 pounds. Literally none of my clothes fit me. I was wearing clothes that probably wouldn’t fit most middle schoolers. I was so blinded by my anorexia that I couldn’t see the emaciated state that my body was in. My psychiatrist at Remuda told me that he was so confused about how I was still alive.
People who don’t understand psychological disorders will not be able to comprehend how I just couldn’t bring myself to eat. For me, restriction and over-exercising was the only way for me to cope with life. Some people self-harm. Some people overeat. Some people shop. Whatever it may be, everyone has a coping method, healthy or not. Mine was life-threateningly unhealthy.
For me, I had been through trauma. My trauma may not have been nearly as severe as others. I wasn’t abused. I wasn’t raped. My two close friends cut me out of their life. My world turned upside down. I didn’t understand why my best friend still associated with them when I was thrown into the worst depression I could imagine. I felt that everything in my life was out of my control. The one thing I could control was my weight.
The compliments started coming in about how good I looked. I had a stopping point in mind, but that stopping point kept getting pushed back and back. It came to the point where no weight was low enough. I kept a scale in my bathroom. I would wake up, strip down and weigh myself. I repeated this process three times per day. Can you see how I had no time for anything else?
Rehab was the best and worse thing ever to happen to me. I spent my whole first day crying. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to make friends. I just wanted to get my weight up so I could leave. Half of me wanted to get better. A stronger half of me wanted to leave and lose all the weight that I would have put back on.
My day there was so regimented. Waking up at 5:30 every morning. Weights and vitals. Breakfast. Therapy. Snack. Therapy. Therapy. Therapy. Dinner. Snack. Bed at 9. When I was on maximum movement restriction, I had to be driven between buildings in a golf cart. There was group, personal, equine, art, and nutrition therapy. Equine therapy was my favorite. It made me feel so free. I had never ridden before and it taught me so much to care for horses. I learned to take care of myself if I wanted to be strong. Riding through the peaceful, untouched woods on the Remuda grounds was so freeing.
When I was away I made some of the strongest bonds with unbelievably amazing and strong women. Holly, Michelle, Ashley, Jackie, Nikki, and Buddy will have a special place in my heart forever. Marylou….well, she’s another story. She really showed me the pain that I was causing my family. Family therapy was terrible. I hated seeing my parents cry. I never want to cause my parents tears of pain ever again.
When I was at Remuda, the facility was informed that they were going to be closed down. Everyone who was a patient there could either discharge or be flown to Arizona, where the main Remuda location is. All of the staff members were going to lose their jobs. Wonderful, caring people who dedicated their lives to saving the lives of girls and women, some of whom who do not even want to continue living. It was eerie, seeing everything get packed up. Seeing people slowly leave and the amount of patients taper off.
I hope that I will come to see the day where there are easily accessible treatment facilities for eating disorders. I hope that there will come a day when there’s no shame attached to having one. I hope there comes a day when there are no eating disorders killing people around the world.
Recovery is an emotional roller coaster. I know that’s an extreme cliché, but it’s really the best thing to compare it to. Weight is like a pendulum when re-feeding, and no one told me that. Some days I am disgusted with myself. Most days I’m not. The one thing that is most important to recovery is the desire to be healthy. Without that, there is no way recovery will stick. The second most important thing to recovery is a solid support system made up of a therapist, nutritionist, psychiatrist, family and friends.
I hope that people got something out of this post. I really had no direction to it, it was mostly a rambling. Thanks for reading.