So on my formspring, I have gotten a lot of questions about how and why I recovered, how I'm doing now, so on and so forth. Given the number of people who seem to be struggling lately, I feel its appropriate to write about how this all went down for me. From the beginning. I actually had to write an essay on my life for sociology last night. When the teacher announced the assignment, I was scared. I looked up at him and said "Our whole lives, or recent?" He looked back at me and said "I want to know every thing about you."
This assignment scared me because, well, the only thing I've known for the past seven years is anorexia. Its only been the past five or six months, maybe less, that I have begun to discover Victoria again. I'm not gonna post the whole thing, just what spurred me into recovery.
"By the time the winter semester of 2008 started, I was about XX pounds, barely able to function. I was so cold all the time. It was unbearable. I remember kids in my classes, particularly the boys, offering to take me out to dinner, saying, “I’ll buy you anything you want but you have to eat ten of it.” I tried to eat more. I tried to get better. But there I was, in the kitchen, pouring Ensure Plus down the drain and replacing it with regular soymilk and water. I was exercising to the point where it became painful. My eyes were rimmed with pink and purple from the exhaustion. I dropped another five pounds or so before my mom approached me about it. She held paperwork in her hand and said to me “Either you check yourself into treatment, or we will take you to court.” I balked, but eventually went through with. At 5’8” and XX pounds, no treatment center on the East Coast was willing to touch me. No one would even let me travel to a place for help because I was so medically unstable. Six hours and twelve hospitals later, I found a medical hospital in New York that had a program for acute cases of eating disorders. It was a pediatric ward, but they took me in anyways. I was there for three weeks and gained all of three pounds, when the expected gain in that time was usually about 15. They deemed me too sick for the facility to manage, said I was too stubborn, too unlikely to recover. I was very sick. I was 19 and my heart was stopping about three times every night in my sleep. Yet, because I was the oldest girl on the ward, and had the least chance of ever recovering after having my ED for five years, they actually took my heart monitor away. The doctors told me I was getting better. I remember parading around the halls; so happy to think I was going to be okay. My nurse took me aside and told me that wasn’t true, and that their reasoning was actually because I was the oldest, so if I died one night – it was something the doctors figured was going to happen anyways. A few days later, I was shipped off to Cornell. I cried. I begged and pleaded not to be sent there. It is one of the strictest wards I have ever been placed in. When I went there, I was no longer made to eat a 3600-calorie diet in 3 meals a day. Instead, they started me off on 1800 calories of Ensure Plus and juice. I lost weight every day for the first week, before they had finally increased my intake enough to make it stop. The doctor there threatened to have me committed to a state institution for two years if I couldn’t start acting like I could care for myself. Even my eating disorder couldn’t tame my smart mouth. I laughed in her face and told her it was their own fault for my weight loss, asked her what in her right mind made her think taking an inpatient that was consuming 3600 calories a day and barely gaining, and giving them 1800 calories in liquids was a smart idea? I spent the next two weeks on bed rest. I didn’t see the sun or smell fresh air for almost a month. I had to ask permission to pee at unscheduled times. I had to measure my own urine every time I went to the bathroom. I showered in a group shower with plastic curtains and supervision. Every minute of every day was monitored. I ended up with every anorexic’s worst nightmare. A 4600 + calorie meal plan just to gain a pound or so every week. It was the hardest thing I had ever experienced. My cups of Ensure Plus were larger than even those of the boys in the program. The nutritionist told me she had never seen a female inpatient require such calories to make such slow gains. In a sick way, I found this knowledge comforting. It lessened my fear, but it also let the thought of how easy it would be lose all the weight grow in my mind. I was there for about two months. When I got to come home, the first thing I did was take a shower in my own bathroom and lie on my own bed. I could barely remember the color of my own bedroom. My blue walls seemed so bright that day. And god, I was so happy.
Unfortunately, even that didn’t last. Within six weeks, I dropped to my all time low. I remember that morning so well. The image of the numbers flashing on the scale may forever be burned into my memory. I stepped on the scale over and over again because I just couldn’t believe it. I had dropped down to XX pounds in six weeks. I was amazed and horrified. I looked at myself in the mirror and for the first time, I saw myself for what I had become. I was literally a shell of a person. Nothing but bones and skin. For the first time, I saw the imminent death lying behind my eyes – tired, weak and lost. I cried. I begged my mom to help me. My insurance refused any further coverage for my anorexia because I was a chronic case and had long since been determined impossible to help. I was 19 and had been handed a death sentence. It was the hardest thing for me to ever say to myself, after so many years wishing for it, but I knew I did not want to die this way. I wasn’t ready. "
When I started my recovery, I didn't believe I would ever truly recover. I always figured I'd get to whatever weight, and still be unhappy. I never though I could get better. But I tried because I wasn't ready to die, and because I finally saw the pain I was putting my family through. My mother cried herself to sleep every single night. I couldn't even close my eyes because I could hear her sobbing, praying through the walls and her asking God to give her the strength to go on. I would hear her pause before opening my door every morning, and say to herself "Please let her wake up." I hated myself for the suffering I caused and I wanted to make it stop. And the only way to do that was for me, myself, to change. I made a choice to endure my eating disorder's wrath, not for my own sake at first, but for my family's. Doing it for someone else made it easier for for me at first. Eating to make my parents happy gave my mind a more tangible reason to do it, and more selfless. As time went on, and my brain became more nourished and my thinking became more clear - I realized I had to recover for ME too or else it would never work. It took about five or six months for me to say that I wanted to recover not just for my family's peace of mind, but for my own desire to live a life beyond anorexia's hold.
I was just as scared and insecure as many of you say you are right now. And I know, it is SO hard to just effin do it like everyone says. I had myself convinced there was so much more to it than that. And emotionally, there totally is. But in terms of the actions one must take, it really is that simple. You don't wait for there to be a better day. You don't wait for your mind to come around, or for your ED to say its OK. Because that day will never come. Believe me, I never felt like eating at first. Even now, I have days where I'm just not very hungry. But I eat anyways, because if I don't the next day will just be that much harder. Sometimes, you have to jump-start yourself in order to get back to where you want to be. In the world of recovery - this means you will be uncomfortable for a few days. It means there will be anxiety, there will be fear, and there will be more calories than you may feel you are capable of dealing with. But you know what? All of those thoughts are created by your ED. You CAN handle eating an extra 200 or 300 calories a day. Its a glass of milk with a slice of toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter for heavensakes. Will your anorexia rise up in anger? Yes. But those feelings stem from your eating disorder being afraid of losing its power over you. When the ED voice is fighting with you the most over what you are doing - that is how you know for sure it is the absolute right thing to do. You can do anything you tell yourself you can. And that is the hardest part - being OK with using your own voice instead of the anorexic one. But no matter how strong your ED is, there is always a glimmer of your real self, under the shadows. You have to listen to that part, even for just a minute every day. And do what YOU know is what you need to do. After the first time, every time after that gets easier and easier. It is totally possible to outsmart and out-do your eating disorder. That's how I made it through.
If I can recover, anyone can. Its all in the first step. You either make it, for whatever the reason, or you don't. After that, all things can become possible. Its been 20 months now since I started recovery. I've got about 4-6 at a reasonable weight for my height. I took it slow, and there is no shame in that. But even when I was taking it slow - I was never stalled. I had a constant momentum, no matter how fast or slow it was, I was always making sure I stayed on the right track. I still am, and I'm still going. And I believe everyone can find their way too. You just have to fight for it, and never let up. Remember, we may not choose to be eating disordered, but we DO chose whether or not we fight. We are not passive victims, we have the ability to overcome our ails.
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