Monday, February 24, 2014

Eating Disorder Awareness Week - What you might not know about me.

Today kicks off the start of Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  More people die from eating disorders than from any other psychiatric illness.  Eating disorders destroy lives and families.  I know more than I would like to know about eating disorders because at age 16 I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.  The funny thing about eating disorders are that they start small.  They are sneaky.  I remember with me it was the end of my sophomore year of high school.  During that summer I decided that my thighs were too fat and I was going to diet.  The diet became skipped meals, became hours of exercise, became a 20lb and then a 30lb weight loss over a year.  By the time I was 17 years old, my mom had exhausted all the outpatient therapies and nutritionists she could trying to help me and with my health failing (I was 89lbs at almost 5'8) she put me inpatient.  First it was at a psychiatric hospital in Pennsylvania that had an eating disorder program, but when that proved to be too dangerous (since we were mixed with violent children with other psychiatric illnesses) she moved me to a eating disorder program at Princeton Medical Center.  It was her last option.  Surely without some sort of intervention I would have died.  I spent the entire summer of 1999 inpatient doing group therapy, solo therapy, nutritional therapy, and was heavily medicated.  Slowly but surely I gained weight, followed the rules and was discharged a week before I was to start my senior year of high school.

The funny thing about eating disorders is they are never really "cured".  I like to say that like Cancer (which I have had too!), eating disorders go into "remission" and when they flare the person with the eating disorder needs to decide if they want to fight to keep themselves together and healthy, or let the eating disorder win.  I started my senior year of school, but that wasn't the end of the story.  Just 2 weeks after starting school I managed to loose 20lbs.  Back inpatient I went and this time it was longer.  Much longer. I rebelled, I fought tooth and nail AGAINST the program.  I was determined to "NOT GET FAT!" no matter what the cost.  I ended up even more medicated, just barely missed getting a feeding tube, and earned myself a one-on-one and bedrest because I liked doing jumping jacks in my bathroom.  It wasn't all bad though.  While I was there I met a lot of wonderful people.  I met someone there that still to this day remains one of my very best friends.  Eating disorders are very isolating.  No one really understands what it is like to live with the voice in your head telling you that you are fat when you are 70lbs.  People don't understand why you can't "just eat".  Friendships were formed out of a common foe.  I spent most of September, all of October, and almost all of November in those walls.  Finally around Thanksgiving my doctor decided that I would be better off going home, because staying there wasn't doing any good for me anymore.  My mom was scared and so was I.  She brought me home the day after Thanksgiving and I have never been inpatient since. Almost 15 years.  I am an almost 15 year eating disorder survivor.  That is a huge deal.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I know many people that weren't as lucky as I am.  They didn't make it.  I am happy to say that my friend that I met inpatient all those years ago has finally found her road to recovery.  She is 2 years hospital free.  Some people have harder roads to recovery than I have had.  My journey hasn't been easy and there are still days now all these years later when I have to make the decision to keep myself healthy and I do.  Not just for me, but for my sons and my husband.

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