All my life I’ve always been obsessed with something. In middle school, it was Hanson. In high school it was swimming, boys, the internet, and writing. And, sadly, in college, it was controlling my food.
I’ve always been a type A personality and a closet perfectionist. I needed to have things planned out, scheduled, and perfect to the “T”. Heaven forbid someone call me up to go on a late night burger — any ounce of spontaneity in my life was unheard of.
My eating disorder was something else…boy, was it something else. It was my best friend, my confidant, my security, and (well) my life. I lived and breathed calorie counts, fat content, and restriction as I would go day by day studying cereal boxes, reading recipe books, and memorizing diet fads online to try to subdue them even more.
“The average 18 year old woman at 5’3” should eat no more than 1,200 calories a day.” Well then, let me one-up them and eat no more than 900!
I remember only bits and snippets from these days, as my brain had probably shrunk and my heart was shriveled and tiny from being so malnourished (FYI: my lowest weight reached 75lbs). I had to take medical leave from college because I could barely walk – my feet were too bony, my hips cracked at every step, and I was out of breath after 1 block. Why I didn’t drop dead walking from class is beyond me. Moving back home, I was too scared to stay home alone, so I accompanied my Mom to work. At the time, she was a teacher’s aid in a special ed classroom. On our way home one day, we were walking through the parking lot. I walked past the janitor’s room and heard a soft crying noise.
Curious, I peaked in. There was a box full of kittens, all either white, tabby, or orange.
“Cute,” I thought, and walked on. The next day came and went, and as we were on our way home again, I passed by the janitor’s room. The door was open. I didn’t hear any crying, but there was still the box that the kittens had been in on his desk. Curious, I peaked inside. A single black ball of fluff was curled in the corner.
“Did you want him?” said a voice behind me. I turned around to see the janitor standing there in his blue uniform.
“No thanks,” I answered and walked away.
That was Wednesday. Friday, I was walking to the car, passed the janitor’s room, and heard crying again. Confused, thinking all the kittens had been adopted, I peered inside. The black kitten was still there, this time wailing his head off. No janitor in sight, I picked up the box and walked to the car to meet my mom.
“I’m bringing him home,” I said. “No one wants him.”
I honestly don’t remember what my Mom said, or how she reacted. She may have been so happy to hear me talk and express my opinion that she said nothing (anorexia turns you into a walking corpse).
I named him Dewey, after the youngest brother on Malcom in the Middle. I hid him in my room the first 2 weeks, scared that my Dad wouldn’t agree with my decision and make me get rid of him. Again, I don’t exactly remember how my Dad reacted, but I ended up keeping him (obviously) – and to this day Dewey and my Dad are joined at the hip.
I don’t have kids, so I’m not one to talk, but having Dewey at the age and weight that I was at was like having a kid (in my eyes). He cried constantly, wanted attention, needed to be fed, played with, and petted. For once, I had a purpose and, ultimately, a new obsession. My purpose grew from striving to control every morsel going into my mouth into providing and caring for something that was too weak to do so himself.
I don’t know why I took Dewey home that day. I was never a cat person before him. I didn’t think cats were cute at all, and I grew up wanting a beagle like Snoopy. But after Dewey came around, everything in me changed. I was so distracted by him that I forgot about myself – and oddly enough, that’s what it took for me to recover: shifting the focus onto something else. Although I’ve had bumps and the occasional 2 month relapse along the way, thirteen years after I first bought Dewey home, I’m happy to say that I’m at a more normal weight now after damaging my body for years. Who knows if it was all thanks to Dewey, or if any other type of distraction could have saved my life just the same.
But for now, I’d like to think that, YES, it’s all thanks to the little black fluff from a Janitor’s closet.