Once I graduated from high school, I had absolutely no idea what to do. All I could think of was finally being free from the hell of social anxiety that it caused me day after day. But then I was expected to turn around and march right back into the 7th circle that was college. If you’ve experienced anxiety, extreme self-consciousness, or depression–or if you’ve been jammed into the mold of extroversion when everything within you screams against it–you know where I’m coming from.
So, naturally, I freaked out. I refused to take any college entrance exams or enroll in anything. My mom didn’t push me because she knew me well, and she appreciated that I needed a break. High school was not the best season for me. I did get to meet a few great people and for that I’m thankful. But the overall experience was the worst time of my life.
Warning: This post contains triggering material. If you are dealing with an eating disorder or have struggled with one in the past, know this is going to be a sensitive subject for you. You know yourself so please use your best judgment in whether or not to read at this time. My goal is to encourage you in whatever struggles you are facing, eating disorder or otherwise, and my message is ultimately one of hope and victory.
Spiraling out of control
I had no idea what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. And apparently I was supposed to have already figured that out. My parents weren’t college graduates, but I was strictly expected to be. It was not even a question. I knew I would have to go to college, but all I could imagine was that it would be like high school, except worse. So I made no move to even think about going. I had just finally gotten free from school, are you kidding me? The stress of being expected to do something with myself plus the ignorance of how to go about it weighed on me. And I slowly started to starve myself.
Looking back, I really do believe that the main reason I starved myself was simply to be skinny. I believed I was fat and that, if unchecked, my weight would soar out of my control. The fear of not being skinny was the driving force toward anorexia.
If not for my warped body image, I believe the stress and unhealthy mentality would have manifested in some other way. But weight had crept in through the years and gotten a grasp on my self-identity. So food became my focus, and eating as little of it as possible.
I started following pro-ana sites and printing out photos of my favorite skinny people. People like Vera Ellen and Tracey Gold. These were not just skinny people though, they were sick people. But in my mind, they were just the ones who were dedicated.
I kept a diary of everything I ate. When my parents and sister were gone, I would go through the house with my notebook and list all the foods and write down the serving size for each, including their amounts of calories, fat, protein, and sugar.
I had the formula for calculating my BMI memorized.
I did at least 2 sets of 500 crunches a night in my room. I would put on Karen Carpenter through my headphones and do squats in the dark in the middle of the night because I couldn’t stand to lie in bed not doing something to keep myself skinny.
I would take the plate of food from that night’s dinner from my mom, who had the most pained look on her face. She knew what was going on. But she didn’t know I would sit with my plate of food in my room for 20 minutes not eating it. Instead I had plastic baggies I would put the food in, shove them into my pockets, and go empty them down the toilet.
And I didn’t think any of these things were weird. But I knew everybody else would.
I would go for 3 days at a time without eating anything.
Until I finally ended up in an ambulance severely dehydrated. It took them 15 minutes to find a place on my body where they could start an IV. They said if I hadn’t been brought in when I was, I would have passed out and maybe woken up once, but the next time I would’ve surely gone into a coma.
My heart was beating so fast it made me short of breath, but my blood pressure and blood sugar were extremely low. The nurses wrapped hot towels around me from my head to my feet, and I was involuntarily shaking so badly that I shook the hospital bed. I heard them whispering outside the curtain like it instantaneously became a solid wall the moment it was closed. Things about me not eating, about having a problem.
After I’d had who-knows-how-many bags of IV fluid, the doctor came and asked me if I thought I might have an eating disorder. Of course I said no, I mean, if I had an eating disorder, I’d have been skinny. (I was messed up in the head, y’all.)
They told me I’d have to eat a cracker and drink some pop before I could go home. I almost asked if they had diet. See, this was not a pretty time. But I was more motivated than ever.
I kept starving and before long I was under 90 pounds. After a while I stopped weighing myself, but the lowest I got that I know of was 87 pounds, and that was at 23 years old and 5’4″.
My very petite little sister was just starting high school and wore larger clothes than I did. My size 0 jeans were falling off. My sis once randomly commented when walking behind me that, because of my loose pants, I looked like the Saggy, Baggy Elephant. And all I heard was the word “elephant.”
I ate so little that when I did eat something, I would throw up because my body wasn’t used to it. Going to the emergency room for IVs became part of life.
Up until that point, I used to want to starve myself and be as skinny as I could be. It was hard to fight the hunger. It was soooo hard. But later, around this 80-something-pound time, it was too easy. I couldn’t stop myself from NOT eating. I wanted to stop starving. But I’d gotten so deep that I just couldn’t. I would lie in bed at night and cry. I didn’t want to live that way anymore. But I couldn’t help it.
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