When I was 15, I went to summer camp. A friend and I had a bet to see who could lose 5 pounds first. It was a silly bet. What did we know? We were young and crazy and obsessed with what boys thought of us.
I don’t remember who won the bet, but I do remember a counselor talking to us, telling us she was worried that we weren’t eating enough. She gave us a pack of crackers and left us alone. My friend ate her crackers. I threw mine in the trash.
When I got home from camp, my grandma said I was looking thin and I should eat more. I lied to her and told her my teeth were sore from my braces. She didn’t mention it again, and at the time, I was incredibly grateful.
When the school year started back up, I was entering as a sophomore. I wore baggy clothes that year, dressed like a guy, because that was “in style” that year. I look back at those pictures and cringe. Boys Levi’s and Henley’s were not a good look for me. But they hid the fact I was losing weight; weight that I clearly did not have to lose.
Sometime in my junior year, I stopped caring.
I blacked out at school. Twice.
I had to see the school counselor, who was not equipped to handle me. She had me color my family and tell her what the colors represented. She had me take a bite of a granola bar and watched me chew and swallow it. I started skipping those counseling sessions. It wasn’t helping.
Things began to spiral downhill. I started having weekly weigh-in appointments at my doctor’s office. I was told if I lost one more ounce, I’d be hospitalized.
This threat did not scare me.
I got driving privileges taken away. My parents were afraid I would black out while driving and get into a wreck.
During my senior year, something changed. It’s not that I stopped not-caring, it’s that I met Sean. I wanted to be normal, for him. I slowly put on weight. And I thought I was okay with it. I tried not to think about the food, and just focusing on other thoughts. It worked for a few years, and I was able to push it aside.
The week before I turned 19, I packed up my VW and drove to New Orleans to live with Sean. He worked offshore as a diver, so I had plenty of time alone. Time to not eat. No one would notice.
Except that he did.
I was 22 and Sean had just come home from offshore. He looked in the pantry and said that even though he had been gone for 10 days, the same food was in the pantry. Nothing was missing. The next thing I know, he’s saying he can’t take care of me the way I need help. We’re calling my mom. She’s buying plane tickets. I’m moving back in with my parents.
Back home, I cry. A lot. I’m angry. I hate my life.
A month later, I’m in therapy 3 times a week. Twice weekly group therapy, once a week individual therapy and once a week weigh-in and blood pressure checks. In group therapy, we have to eat lunch. And the rule is, is that you have to eat ALL of what you brought, not just pick at it. I cry because a girl tattles on me, saying I didn’t eat the crust of my bread. I notice she is skinnier than I am, and I love her grey shirt. I hate her.
In therapy, I’ve been prescribed anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills and pain pills. I’ve also been diagnosed with OCD. I count stairs. Religiously. I count steps, and I touch walls. I cannot stop.
I walk around in a fog these days, not caring what I look like or who sees me. One night, I start having incredible chest pains. I curl up into the fetal position on the floor while my mom dials 911. They want to send an ambulance for me, but I don’t want our neighbors to see me. We drive ourselves to the hospital and I’m immediately taken back. They do an EKG, and see that there are no signs of a heart attack. The nurse asks me when I last threw up. I tell her I don’t throw up. She asks me again, accusing me almost. Now a seed has been planted that I must start throwing up.
It’s not as hard as one would think. It almost feels good. It’s therapeutic and freeing and positive to me.
A few months later, I’m now vomiting blood. I’m eating less than 400 calories a day and I’m in the double digits. I could care less.
As a family, we decide for me to be hospitalized. I pack my suitcase, crying. I call Sean and he says he’s so proud of me. He says I’ve come a long ways, and he will write to me daily. He writes me a poem, and to this day, I still can’t read it without crying.
When I arrive the next morning to check in, they call me back. I’m told I’m not “sick enough” to be with the ED patients. Until I get sicker, there is nothing they can do. Their hands are tied. If I want, I can be admitted in the psyche ward, although my problems won’t be addressed. I will only be drugged.
I pick up my bags and I leave. I never set foot in there again.
I decide its time to change. I’m tired of this. Of the planning and schedules and counting and rituals. I change for myself this time.
Within a year, I’ve put on weight and Sean & I are back together. I’m happy. I’m confident for the first time in my life. I made it.
But it doesn’t end here. Because of my struggles, my body had turned on itself. Because I wasn’t feeding it, it began to eat away on the inside. I’m missing a lot of my discs in my spine, so I have a lot of bone-on-bone, a lot of exposed nerves. I had a hard time conceiving Owen, and am having a hard time conceiving baby #2. I see a chiropractor weekly, but I feel my pain is never gone. I’ve spent the last 3 nights sleeping with an ice pack.
The choices I made at 15 are now coming back to haunt me at 30.
I don’t know why today was the day to share. Why I needed to get this out of my head. Maybe because I’m really struggling inside with infertility and I’m struggling with knowing I only have myself to blame.