Eating Disorder Autobiography
Frank was born in September 1995. I was 11 and had just started 7th grade. my period had begun over the summer and my body was already changing in ways I wasn’t sure I liked. one of my first days at school I wore a shirt that said “Zero Calories” and a boy in my class said, “yeah right.” It made me feel weird and I never wore that shirt again. I didn’t think about or judge my body very much. It was what it was, and I accepted the fact that I was taller and a little more curvy than some girls my age. The reason I started purging is embarrassing. My friend Jessie was talking about throwing up after meals one day in the cafeteria. Not that she did it, but someone she knew or she’d read about it somewhere. I said, “Oh, I do that.” I hadn’t actually done it, I didn’t even know what it was. It sounded gross, but I wanted to be a part of the conversation. She said, “That’s bulimia, Camilla.” And I said I knew. But I was totally clueless. I was afraid my friends would find out I was fibbing, so when I got home that night I tried it.
I don’t remember purging very much in junior high. I remember the first time I was really successful we had eaten spaghetti for dinner. I was overly full, so I went to the toilet and purged. I guess I hadn’t chewed thoroughly because I could feel undigested noodles hanging down my throat, like string. I even joked about it to my mom. I think she thought I was just sick. I loved the feeling of having more room to eat the food that I liked, so I kept doing it for a while. I think this was in 8th grade. I would make entire packages of mashed potatoes and eat them, and purge. I didn’t binge or purge at school, I was too embarrassed. I didn’t really tell anyone what I was doing. One day a friend was talking about throwing up, and I said, “oh yeah, I throw up every day.” He looked at me like he was really worried, but didn’t say anything. I was humiliated and ran to the bathroom.
I had a nightly ritual during this time. I would do 40 sit ups, 100 leg lifts on each side, lunges, and then purge. I remember being annoyed that my routine took so much time. It was like a to-do list that I had no desire to do. I don’t remember how long that went on, but I eventually got tired of it and stopped.
In 9th grade we had a new girl in our class. She was a twig. I was so jealous of her body and how her thighs didn’t touch like mine did. I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen because I was pretty sure they had touched since I was 11 or so. I went on diets constantly that year, but I didn’t understand calories and intake vs. expenditure, so nothing worked. I played volleyball, did swim team, ran track and was pretty active over all. I didn’t really exercise outside of those activities; I didn’t have time to. My parents never talked about going to the gym, unless we went as a family to play racketball or swim or something fun like that. My friends and I used to have tons of sleepovers, almost every weekend. We would buy Entamen’s low fat cakes and Snackwell no fat/low sugar cookies, rice cakes, low fat ice cream, etc and eat them all night long. I can’t speak for them, but I didn’t understand that low fat didn’t mean low-cal. That was the first year I tried dieting, and ironically I got a lot bigger that year
When the school year started I was frustrated because I felt ugly and like no one liked me. Girls who I had made friends with during soccer tryouts didn’t really talk to me anymore. My brother was embarrassed of the way I dressed, and I think his friends teased him. I didn’t really care about my style. I liked chain chokers and funky vintage t-shirts from thrift stores. Sometimes I wore fishnets with my skirts or under ripped jeans. My mom always tried to take me shopping so I didn’t look so “homeless,” but I liked my style, and I liked my music, and I liked my mohawked friends. This was before thrifting was cool and everyone shopped at Abercrombie.
I had good friends in Junior High, so I figured I’d make a lot of friends from the other junior high when I started high school. I was 14 my sophomore year. I had a really close group of 4 girlfriends who seemed to mesh flawlessly with other girls we met, but I couldn’t do it. I think they were embarrassed by how ugly I was. I never got asked to dances until I had a boyfriend. I was set up on one blind date to homecoming my sophomore year. He ended up being really awkward. I was embarrassed to be around him and spent the evening wanting to go home.
I didn’t realize how ugly I was at first, but in high school you learn those things pretty fast. I felt huge, had braces, and acne. My hair was thick, but that was the only thing I liked about myself. I felt like I had skipped the teenage phase when every girl was flat and skinny and awkward before their hips and chest grew. I looked older than 14, except for my braces.
I didn’t purge much during my sophomore and junior years. I can’t remember doing it regularly, maybe only when I was overly full. My 4 close friends and I had a little club we called “Midnight Icecream Riders.” If any of us had a bad day, we would call each other, get in the car with 5 spoons and a gallon of ice cream, and drive around talking. Sometimes we stopped to walk around the marina, a couple times we went skinny dipping. It was so fun and made me feel like an important part of a group.
In the middle of my Junior year I was friends with a girl who had an older brother. She and I would go line dancing almost every weekend with our other friend, the older brother and his friends. We were probably the youngest people who went, but we had a lot of fun. Her brother was 18 and started showing interest in me. I couldn’t figure out why. It made me really nervous, but also excited. I wasn’t super attracted to him, but I also wasn’t used to guys paying attention to me in that way. He had a good job, an apartment, and a car, and most importantly was very respectful and kind. In the spring my friends wanted me to ask him to Tolo, the girls choice dance. So I did. He came to my house with a rose and said yes. The night of tolo we didn’t even end up going to the dance. We went to dinner, went to the dance, decided we’d rather watch a movie and went to his house. The next time we went out he kissed me. I felt so guilty, but still happy that I was desirable. We went out to dinner almost every night. The purging started again because I would eat too much and get way too full, then I’d go home and eat more. Sometimes I’d have 2 dinners a night.
At the end of the year I tried out for cheer. I was actually a fairly good dancer and I think I surprised people because I was so big. That summer I had cheer camp, girls camp, a family vacation, EFY, and youth conference. We also had cheer practice every day, and I was on swim team. I lost a lot of weight that summer, but I didn’t really notice. My family and some close friends did, and that felt good. I only purged when I was overly full, so it wasn’t very often. I binged when I was upset, but I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I just thought I was hungry. Christmas time was especially bad. I didn’t know when to stop eating cookies and treats. I just ate and ate and ate. My dad and brother did the same, but they always stayed pretty slim.
During this entire time my sister was tiny tiny. I was told from the day she was born how beautiful she was. And she was. As she grew she stayed tiny tiny. She was a bean pole. She grew to be 5’7” by the time she was 13, and by the time she graduated high school she was 5’10”. She had celiac disease so she was also sick and super skinny, but for a long time none of us knew why. All I knew was that she was much thinner than I was, and I hated that. I couldn’t look like her no matter what I tried. I was mad at God and at my family because I didn’t have her shape. I felt like the ugly sister.
I didn’t like shopping for clothes for a lot of reasons. I liked funky shirts and weird things. But also, nothing trendy looked right on me. Even when I tried it wasn’t quite right. When I was in high school shirts weren’t as long as they are now. They hit at an odd spot on my body and made my torso look short, my hips look wide, and my thighs look huge.
In college I didn’t binge and purge or restrict. I over exercised, but only did weight training. I bulked up and hated my body. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t lose weight when I spent so much time at the weight room. I was in an aerobic class, and part of our grade at the end of the year was whether we had lost any weight. I had gained. I was heartbroken because I HAD worked really hard. I think as I worked out more I started eating more without realizing it. I was also on a school meal plan which meant I was eating a lot of fast food.
I didn’t engage in behaviors much over the next few years. I ate what I wanted, exercised a little, had an active social life, went on a lot of dates, etc. I just didn’t think about it very much. I purged occasionally if I felt too full. But those times were very few and far between. Looking back I think I looked huge, but I didn’t think that at the time. I thought I was the size I was. I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it, so I didn’t worry about it too much. Yes, I kind of wished I was skinnier, but I didn’t see it as a possibility.
During my junior year of college I broke up with someone I thought I would marry. I stopped eating after that. I wasn’t trying to restrict, I just wasn’t hungry. I lost some weight and didn’t notice, but other people did. After I’d had a while to “heal” I started eating more and more. I’d sit on my couch watching Law and Order SVU and eating half a bag of tortilla chips and ranch and salsa. I didn’t have meals, I just ate that all day. I still stayed about the same weight even though I wasn’t exercising, but I felt horrible; lethargic and depressed. I rarely went outside, only when I had to go to work. I ate to feel comforted. I self medicated with food.
After that year I decided I wanted to lose weight, so I started running. It was slow at first. I wasn’t in great shape. I gave myself strict dietary guidelines in the name of being “healthy.” I said, “1600 calories a day, running for 15-30 minutes.” As the summer progressed 15 minutes wasn’t long enough. Neither was 30. I started running for at least an hour and then doing an exercise video in the morning or the evening. I had a full time job and a part time job, so I was on my feet all day and exhausted in the evening. I’d eat a Lean Cuisine or a salad for lunch, Lean Cuisine for dinner, and maybe a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich. I lost a lot of weight, and when I went back to salt lake to work at a youth camp my friends all said, “you changed your body type.” That was the first time I realized that I could starve myself into whatever shape I wanted. So I kept going. I had very little energy and was agitated all the time. At the youth camp restricted most of the time. When I let myself eat it usually turned into a binge. I’d throw up in my room and hide it in the closet. I felt very worthless and I wasn’t doing well at my job. I couldn’t focus.
After that summer I knew I needed help, but I didn’t want it. I wanted to go back to BYU so I could continue dating someone I had met over the summer. I went back to BYU and continued my strange eating and exercising habits. I eventually dropped my classes. I would eat the same thing most days. A nonfat yogurt with ½ a cup of fluffed rice cereal, a bag of spinach with butter spray, salsa, and a non fat low carb tortilla. Maybe an apple. On weekends I would binge. I would go to my friend’s apartment when she wasn’t home to “use her computer” which is code for “eat her candy.” I would walk down the street to the grocery store and buy an entire loaf of french bread, and only eat the soft part. If I didn’t have food I’d make shortbread or eat cake mix out of the box. I purposely wouldn’t keep food in my house, but then I’d steal it from my roommates. I’d purge in our bathroom. One night I couldn’t purge and I was in so much pain I thought I would explode. I couldn’t get rid of it and I thought I would die. I was so afraid. My friend came to visit me that year and wrote me a letter telling me that she was worried and that she knew I was purging. I was embarrassed, but not enough to change my behavior. I became very erratic and impulsive. I drove to arizona to visit my brother without telling anyone. I drove to vegas to meet a guy without telling anyone. The third time I was driving to vegas I got in a bad car accident. I rolled my car several times and was lucky to be alive. After that I couldn’t exercise or do anything by myself, so I was almost forced to “get better.” My mom came to Utah, and when she realized I needed more help she flew me home. I started physical therapy and eating disorder therapy.
My ED group was kind of helpful, but since I wasn’t actively involved in ED behaviors i didn’t try very hard and didn’t get much out of it. I quit the program before completion because I didn’t think it was helping me.
Af few months later I met my ex husband. During our courtship I told him about my eating disorder and that it might not ever go away. Because it was dormant, I think he thought it wasn’t a problem anymore. It was dormant for most of our marriage. During the second year I decided I wanted to lose some weight so I started restricting. I was still exercising daily, but I started eating only 1200 calories a day, which turned into 500-600 calories a day. I’d let myself eat out twice a week. “Cheat” days. AKA “binge” days. He would get very frustrated and try to make me eat. When I found the picture he posted of me online I purged again for the first time in a couple years. I was so sad. A few months later he told me he wanted a divorce. I was 102 lbs. I started eating again because I thought it would help. It did help for a while. But a few months after that he told me he still wanted a divorce and I stopped eating again. I just wasn’t hungry.
When the divorce was over I wasn’t restricting anymore, but I had lost weight. I kind of stopped thinking about food, it just didn’t seem important. I was ok for about a year, and then I started restricting, binging and purging again. Only purging when I felt uncomfortable. I was much more adamant about restricting. It wasn’t really calories, I just limited what I would let myself eat. I ate the same thing almost every day. I gained a little weight, but I was exercising so I still looked healthy even though the way I thought about food was very strange.
When I broke up with a boyfriend I started running excessively to numb out. I started restricting because I liked the response I was getting to my weight loss.
I went home to Seattle for my birthday. My best friend Lindsey was afraid of how thin I’d become and confronted me about it. I lashed out at her about her own issues. We committed to get healthy together. And we both started to.When Lindsey died unexpectedly, I almost immediately went to the gym to numb out. I cried while I was running. I felt my feet hit the treadmill in a steady rhythm and lulled myself into a kind of trance. I felt nothing, which was better than the grief. I stayed at the gym until it closed that night, went home and ran some more. I was gone until almost 2am.
I started eating to numb the pain. I went from one extreme to the other. I ate constantly. I ate until I couldn’t feel anything but the pain in my stomach.
A few months later I moved home because I wasn’t coping well with anything that was happening in my life. I slept a lot. I didn’t want to see friends. I got a part time job as a nanny, but I didn’t have much energy and the kids I worked with started to annoy me. I felt like a terrible person and a failure. I felt ugly in every sense.
When my friend Michelle called and told me she was getting married I decided I wanted to get a little healthier before the wedding. I started spending more time at the gym. I started restricting. I lost weight very quickly, and when I went back to Utah for her wedding, I felt confident, but no one really noticed my weight loss, so when I got home I tried harder.
Eventually I quit my job because I couldn’t handle being around the kids. I stopped going to church because I couldn’t focus. I slept most of the day and would wake up around 3pm and spend 4 hours at the gym. My eating disorder was my entire life. When we had the snowstorm I couldn’t get to the gym, so I would walk. I walked for hours every day. I even ran in my snow boots up hills, on ice, it didn’t matter. My feet were bloodied and blistered and I just kept going. I’d even started to steal food because I didn’t have a job or any money and my family wouldn’t buy me my safe foods.
In January things became out of control. At one point my mom called the police. I tried to leave, but my little brother held me so I couldn’t. I was taken to the hospital. They let me go on the condition that I would seek treatment for my eating disorder. I promised I would. I was devastated by the cost of treatment programs. The guilt I felt was overwhelming and exacerbated the problem. Treatment wasn’t an option in my mind because of the expense.
I started PHP at Opal in Seattle in February. I was afraid they wouldn’t take me because I wasn’t sick enough, but instead they almost didn’t take me because I was too sick. I had very little meal compliance. Since the program was only 9-6, at the end of the day, left to my own devices I almost always went to the gym. Sometimes I just wouldn’t go to PHP because I was so tired. I didn’t connect with my therapist. My nutritionist didn’t believe me when I told her I wasn’t purging (which I wasn’t except for the exercise). Everyone there said I needed more structure and recommended inpatient. I discharged a few months after starting the program.
My life had very little after that. I visited my Dad in Utah and my behaviors got worse. I visited a friend in Oregon, and my behaviors got worse. I lied to everyone about where I was and what I was doing. When my friends and family confronted me I just lied to them about what I was doing. I’d say I was going to a therapist, and go to the gym. I’d say I had a doctor appointment, or something at church, or a date, and go to the gym. I’d sneak out at night and go to the gym.
I couldn’t get past the guilt I felt about the cost of treatment, but in my lucid moments I knew I needed to go inpatient because I couldn’t pull myself out of my eating disorder. Sometimes I’d cry on the treadmill and wish someone would come pull me off and not let me do it anymore.
I applied for every scholarship and government funded health assistance-type thing available, and was given the same denial time after time. My eating disorder wasn’t a “real medical problem.” I would be given no assistance.
I used to bake at night when I couldn’t sleep. Bake or clean. . . My family loved waking up to treats, I loved baking and making new recipes, and I wasn’t sleeping at night anyway. One of my friends suggested that I sell some of the things I make, so I decided to start selling the treats for a donation towards treatment. And I started blogging about it. The entire time my behaviors were getting worse. At the end of September my doctor told me that she was going to hospitalize me if I didn’t go into treatment NOW. I was 87 pounds. My heart rate was 32 bpm. My EKGs were bad. My doctor told me I was sick enough to be committed involuntarily to the hospital, but she didn’t want to do that because they would stick a needle in my arm and give me a pill to get my heart rate up, and then let me out. Which would leave me just as sick and with a huge bill. I wanted to go to my brother’s wedding, so I promised to get my heart rate and weight up a little. And I did. I weighed 96 pounds by my brother’s wedding.
I wasn’t planning to go to treatment so soon, but the baking and fundraising thing blew up a lot more than I anticipated; we’d raised enough to get me into a center, at least for a month. So the plan was to drop me off at CFC after my brother’s wedding. My behaviors were not as bad on the trip, but still there.
When I got to Utah I got a hotel room and hid from my family. I engaged in my behaviors as a kind of “farewell” before admitting to CFC.
Now I’m at the end of my journey here. I’ve gained about 30 lbs. My heart is well, I’m a healthy weight. Physically I’m better, but mentally I’m still struggling. I find myself hoping that I can lose weight when I leave. I want to exercise. BUT I want recovery more. I’m stepping “down” to a day patient program at Remuda Ranch in Chandler, AZ. I will live on campus and have groups during the day, just like here. But the nights and weekends are my own. That’s a lot more self-direction than I’ve had in the last 6 months, and I’m nervous. But mostly excited and hopeful.