Author: Former Patient
San Diego, California — Think for a moment…do you truly want to live? This question can be very difficult for a person with an eating disorder to answer. Their self-hatred is so intense that they would rather die than gain weight. I know… I am anorexic. I am one of them. For the last twelve years I have deliberated the above question. With the help of the Center for Change, Inc., I have finally been able to answer “Yes. I do want to live.”
I was fifteen years old when I began my attempted suicide through anorexia nervosa. The method is quite simple. You starve yourself to death. Although my parents only had the best intentions to direct my life along a protected path, I was raised under strict and controlling rules. I learned as a very young child that food was a central focus in my parents’ lives. Starvation was my way to subtly rebel against the strict rules established by my family and also functioned as an anesthetic for my feelings of shame as a bad child. Physiological hunger began to symbolize will power and self-control. I could not comprehend, in reality, my life was actually spiraling out of control.
My deceptive eating rituals tortuously entrapped me for over a decade. My obsession with fat grams and the bathroom scale became a nightmare. Filling up on diet soda and chewing bubble gum replaced eating decent meals. I insisted on eating exactly the same food every day. Variety meant I was out of control. Water and bread were my best friends at restaurants. I was not hungry” or “not feeling well” whenever food was offered to me. I could never enjoy myself at a party or a restaurant as my mind was too busy plotting an escape route from the clutches of my most terrifying enemy–food. In reality, my real enemy was myself.
I continually told myself that I was overweight and ugly. I correlated this ugliness with unacceptability. I believed that I could be assertive and in control only when I was thin. An ounce of happiness was equivalent to the loss of a pound of weight. An acceptable weight was never defined. The thinner the better. An extra five pounds could always be lost. Unfortunately the mind of an anorexic readily accepts negative comments about themselves, especially when the comments are from the self. Positive comments could never be true especially when your looking in the mirror and all you see are rolls of fat, no matter what your weight could be. Your perception about your body changes. You are no longer a person but a stomach or a thigh. Food is guilt giving. Prior to treatment, I reached a point when I was eating one piece of bread every other day and I still continually told myself “You are a fat pig. How can you eat so much.” With every bite my body grew heavier with despair. These negative thought patterns took a toll on my body. I lost my hair. My menstrual cycles were irregular, if I had one at all. I had to spend hours sleeping during the day due to weakness and malnourishment. I was dehydrated. My eyes sunk into my face…and I was lucky. I have anorexic friends who have experienced heart attacks, premature osteoporosis, and early hysterectomies. Once these distorted negative thoughts become your reality, it is very difficult to change. You must begin to trust others about your body image until you can see your body how it really appears.
I will never forget when the doctor told my husband that, because of my anorexia, I could die at anytime. Hearing those frightening words actually provided a sense of relief. After twelve years of on and off starvation my secret was finally uncovered. No longer did I have to hide my deceptive behavior to avoid being caught skipping meals. Shortly thereafter, everyone in my world would know about my problem. The plight to find help at home in San Diego became a nightmare of its own. I was eating so little that I was now a liability for out-patient care. If I wanted help I would have to find an inpatient facility. Unfortunately, inpatient centers for eating disorders are few and far between due to the lack of support from insurance companies. I began to question if I was really ready to give up my friendship with my eating disorder. I found my answer through the Internet–The Center for Change.
When I arrived in Orem, Utah, I was terrified. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live my life on the leash of my anorexia either. The staff greeted me with open arms. I have never received so much love from so many people in my entire life. I had a void in my soul for so long that my eating disorder refused to allow to be filled. With the help of the therapists, staff, and other residents, in addition to support from my husband, family and friends, I have slowly started to tear down the box that enclosed my heart. I have been so hungry for love and attention. Starving masked the pain. The intense therapy offered through the Center for Change’s inpatient program has provided me with the fundamental tools to take responsibility for my life. I realize now that I would not have survived continuing with outpatient care in San Diego. As I prepare to leave the center after my two month stay, I would like to send my eternal thanks to the entire staff and other residents for essentially helping me save my life. I will reflect on their love and support during my future struggles.