Anorexia From Control to Chaos


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Whenever I felt like my life was out of control I turned to the one thing I could control: my food intake.

I started out just skipping breakfast, but I soon began skipping breakfast and lunch. Before I knew it, I was skipping all meals. I would go to school each day, and only chew gum. But even the gum I chewed counted as food, because, after all, each stick had five calories. After school I would go to work until 8 p.m. When I finally got home in the evenings I would have a plate full of vegetables, and then go to bed. I was constantly thinking of food, and how many calories were in everything I ate, from gum to toothpaste. I allowed myself to have 300 calories a day. Needless to say, my weight began to severely drop and my health began to fade. "But," I thought, "at least I am in control."

At lunch the other kids would tease me, and try to feed me, like I didn't know how.

"C'mon Kyff. One potato chip won't kill you. My God!"

Even my teachers were commenting.

"Well, maybe if you ate you wouldn't be so cold." The Friday before Spring Break my science teacher asked me to stay after class.

"Kyffin, are you anorexic?" she asked casually, as if she had rehearsed what she had said to me.

"No," I snapped, "I eat. I just eat healthily." I thought that would be the end of it.
I was constantly thinking of food, and how many calories were in everything I ate, from gum to toothpaste.

I was planning to have a fun spring break. I was going to Florida with my mom and dad, and we were going to relax and enjoy the bright, southern sunrays for a week. But instead of an eight day trip, it turned into a four day trip.

It was a beautiful spring night. The weather was perfect. We were eating dinner at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean. when my mother interrupted me to say, "Kyffin, if you don't eat we are going home tomorrow!"

My father chipped in with, "If you don't eat, when we get home, I am taking your car away.

I looked down at my plate of cold and pathetic-looking chicken and started to cry. I buried my face in my napkin, and sobbed. I didn't care if the people around us saw. In frustration I blurted out, "I just can't eat! I have rules about eating, okay?!" The warm ocean breeze now felt icy and I left the table. I walked back to the hotel alone. My parents kept their promises, and the next morning we headed back home. The instant we arrived home, they took me to the doctor, and it was then that I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.

During the next month, I lost five pounds a week. My weight became so low that I had to be home schooled near the end of my junior year. My body had to eat something in order to survive, so it ate away at my muscle until I had none left. After my muscle, it ate away at whatever it could. I couldn't get up in the morning without every bone in my body aching. I felt dizzy constantly, and could barely walk up stairs. My memory began to fade, and I couldn't concentrate on anything, due to my body's constant hunger. One morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I felt exceptionally dizzy. I waited for the feeling to pass, but it never did. As I turned the corner of the hall, and walked toward the living room, everything suddenly went black. When I regained consciousness I was lying face up on the floor with my mother standing over me. When I heard her scream, "Call 911!" I knew I had fainted. Moments later an ambulance arrived at my house, and I was taken to the Hospital. An I.V. was inserted into my forearm vein, and for two gruesome hours I was intravenously fed fluids.

I was in the hospital when my best friend Stacy gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, named MaKenzie. I spent the entire month of June in the hospital, and when I was finally released I headed straight to another hospital. This time it was to visit. I saw Stacy and MaKenzie two days after she was born. We had both been in and out of hospitals, both our bodies were going through some pretty rough stuff, and we had both lost apart of our cherished teenage freedom.

Stacy was very busy with her newborn over the summer, and we hardly saw each other. But I continued to count on Anorexia to be there with me at all times. Anorexia never told me to eat. With Anorexia's help, I showed no signs of improvement all summer long. My hair began to fall out in clumps, my skin was yellow, my nails turned brittle and cracked, and I was consistently fainting. I lost my hearing in one ear and my monthly periods. My doctor informed me that I would lose all my hair within six months, and if I didn't get my period back, I would lose the ability to have kids. She also warned me that I was at high risk for heart attack. I was slowly dying, but I didn't want to give up the only control I had.

I went to school for two days my senior year and my weight fell. I was taken out of school and placed into another hospital. After two months my weight was still the same. Something major had to be done, and the next step was taken. In the beginning of September I was taken 12 hours away, and placed in an eating disorder hospital in Pennsylvania, called Renfrew.

At the hospital, my first thought was, "What is the quickest way to get out of here?" The halls smelled like pills and medicine. As I sat and waited for the head nurse to introduce herself, I carefully scanned the hallway. The carpet was an ugly rose color. The white walls were covered with artwork, that said things like, "Love yourself now", "Everyone is unique", and "Celebrate your differences."
My body had to eat something in order to survive, so it ate away at my muscle until I had none left. After my muscle, it ate away at whatever it could. I couldn't get up in the morning without every bone in my body aching. I felt dizzy constantly, and could barely walk up stairs. My memory began to fade, and I couldn't concentrate on anything, due to my body's constant hunger.

What a joke, I thought. As I sat and waited, other girls came up to me smiling and introducing themselves. They all looked genuinely happy, something I hadn't felt in a longtime. I wondered how everyone could seem so worry-free in a hospital!

I spent my first three days at Renfrew crying. I missed my home, my friends, and my old eating ways. But, unlike at home, I received an enormous amount of support from girls who were going through the exact same thing as me. I could finally relate to someone! I began to feel better. I spent the next month in a large house with 40 other women and girls who all shared eating disorders.

Mealtimes were the most difficult times, and there were five meals a day. We all sat in a small dining room and were served our meals. We had counselors watching over our shoulders for the entire meal. We were expected to eat every last drop on our plate. If we left one carrot stick or half of an olive laying on our plate, we were punished in the worst way an Anorexic can think of. We were forced to drink a tall, thick glass of Ensure, a weight-gain drink.

Everyday I would wake up at 5:45 a.m. and change into a thin, plastic gown. I would head to the nurse's station to be weighed and have my vital signs taken, along with all the other girls. The line was always long, and I'd have to stand in the cold, dark hallway for at least 30 minutes. Once I was weighed and examined I would return to my room and try to fall back to sleep. Yet my dreaded alarm never failed to go off once again at 7:30 a.m. and all 40 of us would then head to the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast we met in groups with names like Coping Skills, Yoga, Expression Art, or Recognizing and Handling Feelings. There I started to learn about new ways to cope with the tough stuff in my life, rather than restricting food.

After group we would return to the dining room for lunch. Then I had more groups until snack time, which was at 3 p.m. After snack I had free time/visiting time for an hour and a half. Since my parents were 12 hours away and could never visit, I would usually sleep. It was a very depressing time of my day. After my catnap I would head once again to the dining room for supper. After supper I had therapy. Then I would end my day with another snack in the dining hall at 9 p.m. Lights went out at 10 p.m. each night. The days were long, slow and difficult. I missed my home more and more with each passing day. One day, halfway through my stay at Renfrew, the doctor called me into her office. I thought she wanted to check in with me and make sure everything was alright.

"Come on in, Kyffin. Have a seat. I am afraid I have some bad news," Dorris warned as she filed through my records. I sat in the overstuffed chair wondering what was wrong. My first thoughts were that something had happened to my parents. It never occurred to me, the bad news had to do with me. She explained to me that I had osteoporosis. "You have the bones of a 70 year old," she told me. "This means absolutely no more caffeine, no playing contact sports, and no more forgetting to take your calcium supplements. Ever. For the rest of your life. Are you listening to me?" I was listening alright, and so was my mom when she was phoned minutes later. This was the worst news yet.

In early October, I was released from Renfrew, and returned home to Kentucky. The first weeks back at home were hard. My grandmother was dying, and since I had been away so long, I really didn't have a social life. My life consisted of numerous doctor visits, which I dreaded terribly. It seemed every doctor wanted to know my weight. That was, and still is, a very sensitive subject for me. I was on my own now. My parents were instructed to let me be in charge of my own recovery. This meant I had to feed myself, and plan my meals by myself. There was no one looking over my shoulder, no one to make sure I was getting enough calories. My weight stopped rising, as my grandmother's health started falling. I started to restrict again, and lost the weight I had gained once out of the hospital. I fell to five pounds less than what I had weighed when I was discharged from Renfrew.
happy

I wish I could tell you that I have totally recovered since then, but the truth is that I'm only at the very beginning of a long road to recovery. I am still struggling to stabilize and get my weight up to, at least, what it was when I left Renfrew. I still count every calorie I eat, hide from all mirrors, and refuse to be weighed unless it is absolutely necessary. Everyday I struggle to eat enough just to maintain my weight. I feel fat after eating anything, whether it be an apple or a salad.

As I fight to take life back into my own hands, I realize I am going to have to do something very scary. I'm going to have to let go of my best friend, Anorexia. She can never be a part of my life and I won't be able to rely on her for help again, but I know I'm going to be okay. Anorexia was never very good at being a best friend, anyway.


Editor's Note: It is said that only about sixty percent of people with severe eating disorders ever really recover. About twenty percent make only partial recoveries. The study of eating disorders is new. There is very little information about the long-term recovery process. For most, recovery usually takes a long time, perhaps on average five years of slow progress that includes starts, stops, slides backwards, and ultimately movement in the direction of mental and physical health.
Source: ANRED Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc.

For more information on anorexia and body image, check out the following resources:

Use Healthy Ways to Look Goodby Stephanie Kline, Sex, etc.

I'm Fine: The White Lie of Eating Disordersby Michelle May, Shewire.com.

Poundy.com

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