The day my doctor diagnosed me with anorexia, I had only gone to have my bad knee checked out. Looking back, the appointment plays in broken clips. The harmless questions about my fitness regime evolved into an interrogation about my eating habits and body image. How on Earth was any of that was relevant? Did my doctor not understand I was only there because my knee hurt?
I got defensive, angry even because I knew what she was insinuating with every question. My rage boiled and peaked when I saw my mother crying. My gut tightened and contorted, and for a moment I couldn’t see anything else but her wet eyes; they were helpless but relieved at the same time. As much as I wanted to blame my doctor for her tears, I couldn’t help feeling it was my fault. And yet, I couldn’t place why.
After that day, my mother used the word “anorexic” for the first time in front of me, and it felt like a right hook to my jaw. My doctor had never actually spoken that word in my presence; no one had. I demanded to know why my mother would call me that, and she told me matter-of-factly that I had been diagnosed with anorexia. Was this just a simple fact that everyone knew but me?
I consented to seeing a dietician weekly who asked me detailed questions about my diet and exercise. She tried to make me realize why my lifestyle was unhealthy, and that I needed more calories. Every day, I obsessed over that word, “calories.” It was agonizingly painful internal warfare, and it never stopped. I ate 500-600 calories a day, a number that seemed perfectly healthy to my tangled mind. As a point of reference, the average human needs about 2000 calories a day.
The first thing the dietician did was make my parents take away my scale. I used to get up every single morning, go straight to the bathroom, take off all my clothes, and weigh myself. Whatever the scale read determined if I was going to have a good day or a bad day. At my lowest weight, I was 87 pounds. It didn’t seem wrong at all to me. My “diet” had started as just that, a seemingly harmless plan to lose a few extra pounds that spiraled into something more.
I should’ve seen it; I was smacked in the face with signs on a daily basis that I blatantly ignored. When I told people I lost weight, no one congratulated me. I starved myself for a week to feel thin in my skin-tight senior ball dress, and when my teacher looked over it with a pitiful expression and told me I was “so tiny,” I could tell it wasn’t a compliment.
I visited a friend post-weight loss, drenched in my obsessive anorexic behavior (which I thought I hid well), and I believe it played a huge part in ending our friendship. She wasn’t the kind of person who could handle something so complicated; she was a simple high school girl concerned with boys and clothes. I know I freaked her out; I brought all my own healthy food and refused to eat late night ice cream or chips and salsa like we used to. She and I never spoke again after that trip.
My toxic on-again, off-again boyfriend of the time noticed the weight loss and worryingly told me that if I lost any more weight, I would lose my boobs. It’s almost funny looking back on it; he was exactly the kind of person who wouldn’t be concerned for my health, but concerned that a skeleton wouldn’t be very physically appealing to him.
But even though my “friends” never reached out to me, I was incredibly blessed to have a family that cared enough to intervene. What I have to stress here is that I was lucky they stepped in early on. I had a slew of tests done, and no permanent damage was done to my body.
It’s been a few years, and I have a healthy weight and a healthy diet. Ironically enough, I even have my own food blog. There’s still a malicious part of me that hates every curve, every squishy section of my body, but there’s a much bigger part to tell it to go to hell now. I am so much stronger, physically and mentally, like I slayed the self-deprecating dragon that lurked within me.
Most people are not as lucky as I was. My family saved me from slowly destroying my own body. I had no idea what I was doing was wrong; I was too blinded by a distorted body image, and I needed somebody to shake me and pull me back into reality. Angry as I was at the time, I couldn’t be more grateful now.
The earlier you treat an eating disorder, the better chance someone has of recovering from it. So don’t hesitate.