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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spilling Our Guts: Shelbi ("with an 'I'")

I can't describe how I felt when I met this girl who has become so so dear to me. Triggered is probably the best word, though I feel terrible admitting that. She reminded me of myself when I first began treatment--except she was only 18. This girl had to grow up before her time, and I'm amazed at her capacity to love and care and laugh despite great trauma. She came to CFC about a month after I did, and we left around the same time. As I watched friends come and go, Shelbi stayed constant... I'm not sure she knows how (selfishly) grateful I am for that. Anyone who knows her would likely agree that she is one of the funniest, wittiest, most beautiful souls. She never failed to make me laugh. I hope the joy she brought me during our time together can be hers in time. Shelbi-With-An-'I', I love you with my heart.

"Looking back, I would have read this story and thought this person is crazy. Now I realize that wasn’t me talking. It was my eating disorder. Don’t let yours run you. <3"

I have always had a tendency towards eating disorder behaviors. I grew up in an environment obsessed with weight and dieting. I learned at a young age that being fat is not acceptable. I would always go to the YMCA with her when she had to teach aerobics, I remember being extremely exhausted, but would go on and on, just for her approval. By the time I was thirteen, I started restricting. I was never overweight, but I was within the normal range, and that had to change. What plagued me about being an “average” weight was that I believed a lower BMI made you prettier. I stopped eating in sixth grade. I was so amazed at how much I had lost, and how many compliments were given to me. Then I got mono and could no longer eat solid food. I was very ill and never hungry; which made restricting even easier. After I had returned to school my teachers started noticing a difference in my work. They asked if the mono was still affecting my work and the cause of all the weight loss. I concurred; yes, mono was the reason. 

The very next day I was pulled into the counseling center. 

I was told my teachers had been watching me during lunch and noticed that I hadn’t been eating. I tried convincing them that I eat a big breakfast and was told that they had already contacted my mother. She also had an eating disorder, and was clearly anorexic, but they didn’t care about that. Only that I was underweight. 
She was trying to make me fatter while she was getting thinner. 
I used that as inspiration to become smaller. 
I wanted to be smaller than my mom. I found her laxatives, diuretics, and diet pills. She had no idea that I was stealing her “secret."

I began binging and purging at this point, to prove I was still eating. 
But I was still in control of the situation. It was just MINE this time. She couldn’t take this away

When I had turned 16 I found out about cigarettes being appetite suppressants. I had friends buy them for me, and I chose them over food. Until I became really good at restricting again. 
I always thought it was simple: decide once and for all that you aren’t going to eat, and there is no further decision to make.
 I would be tempted frequently, and I would have to choose: Enjoy those twenty minutes of eating? Or stick to my plan and enjoy a lifetime of being thin. 
I had a motto, “Don’t do anything today that you will regret tomorrow”.
I started to see things differently. 
I wasn’t starving myself, I was perfecting my emptiness. 
For me, giving into food showed weakness. I needed to be stronger than everyone else, this was just another way that I could accomplish it. 
This was a way for me to forget all my pain. 
Nobody noticed all the emotions that I had because I chose not to show them. 
I didn’t know that talking to someone might actually help. I felt punished by people close to me when I expressed emotion, so I gave up on expressing anything. I know now that they were worried about me, but in the moment I felt hurt by why they tried forcing me to eat. I was so depressed and was almost certain that things would never get better. 
I was going to be miserable like this my whole life. 
I felt that I had fought so hard that there was no fight in me left. 
I started giving up in school and withdrawing from my friends. Every time they would ask if I was ok, it was just another reminder that I was not. I felt so ashamed of myself. 
There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad. 
At that point I didn’t need a reason to kill myself, I needed a reason not to.
I could have died at any moment, the tragedy was that I didn’t. 

My mom was always so scared, but she didn’t understand what was going on. I was also scared, but that is because I did understand. I understood every little voice inside of my head. It had kept me silent for years. 
I believed that I feel things differently than other human beings; that I was the only one who felt all emotions to the extreme.

I didn’t know what I wanted in life. I didn’t know what I wanted right then. All I knew was that I was hurting so much inside that it was eating me alive, and one day, I hoped there wouldn’t be any of me left.

When I turned 18 I was allowed to buy my own cigarettes. This also led to me buying the laxatives, diuretics, and diet pills, and I abused them. Sometimes I got scared because of my heart. I had a heart monitor, and they had noticed some abnormalities. But after a while hearing that, I realized it didn’t matter. I didn’t mind the fact that my body was failing. I was so upset with myself for failing at losing weight. I used to be so good at it. I wanted to die. 

I no longer knew who I was. Everything about me was lost, I was the Eating disorder. Shelbi was long gone.

Journal Entry:
“Today. Today sucks. My mom blew up on all of us and it made me feel more shitty about myself. I really feel like cutting right now, but I can’t. My mom now does searches to see if I had. I don’t understand why I feel as though if I don’t cut, I will explode. I have all these emotions that I can’t dispose of. I think it is funny when doctors ask me questions and explain how they can “help”. I guess they don’t realise that no matter what, nobody can help me. I just want it to end. All this pain, this hurt, to be over with. Sometimes I think about the past and everything in my life and then I just get sick to my stomach. I literally don’t recognize myself anymore. I look in the mirror and see someone full of pain, sorrow, confusion, sadness, and I am scared. This voice inside me is no longer just a voice. It has taken over me. I don’t know how to eat normal anymore. How to feel beautiful. I just want to go back. Back before all of this started. I need help and I know this, but I also know that no one can help me. This thing is too strong. I know this thing is far more serious than anyone could imagine.”

Next day:

“I have finally given up. My smile has faded and a tear falls down my cheek; I can’t do this anymore. I have been so numb and today I let it go. I am so tired of not being able to explain what I feel deep down inside. It is so deep and confusing and no one know how to help. For that I am scared. I want to reach out, tell someone, but the feelings that suffocate and grab my throat to keep my mouth shut; stop me. The inside pain in my gut, telling me to keep my feelings trapped inside. But I have no words to convey this loneliness building with each passing day. The feeling of emptiness controlling my whole body, that huge pressure in my heart that makes it hard to breathe. When the tears fall down my cheek and into my had, tears that no one but God sees, my heart stops and all the pain comes rushing back. I stop crying because that against the rules. “DO NOT FEEL”. Feeling hurts too much. I am tired of trying to open up to someone... and it breaks my heart even more watching them walk away. I don’t know why I even try anymore. So I turn to Ed. He understands me. I can talk to him and he tells me what I should do. It takes the pain away. If I could ask for anything right now, it would be for someone who understands. SOmeone who knows this pain that I feel; that I am nothing nothing, the real me is invisible to everyone. I just want it to stop. I took way more pills than usual today... I don’t even know what I am doing anymore. Sometimes I wish that someone would see through my lies because I am not strong enough anymore to say anything or reach out. All I can focus on now is how I am going to get thin.”

I had known that I had wanted to die, but not by suicide. 

It was not suicide that I had craved, it was relief. Relief from life. Relief from my feelings. 

I felt like I had cried for help so many times and was unsuccessful EVERY SINGLE TIME. I was literally scared to be left alone with myself. What my brain was going to make me do next was unpredictable. I would get crazy thoughts and would fixate on them. Everyone would tell me to stop moping around in my own despair. They didn’t understand that it wasn’t a matter of just one thing that was bothering me; it was a matter of everything. 
I was so lost. 
There was nobody for me to talk to about all that I was troubled with. I would literally lay in bed and pray to God to let me wake up in the ER and hear the words, “She’s not going to make it.”

Just because somebody doesn’t cry doesn’t mean that they are not suffering. 

I had started acting out more, trying to get someone to notice how much I was hurting.  I eventually came to realize that there comes a point where you  just have to stop trying because it hurts too much to hold on anymore. I started getting “better”. The pain was still there, I had just gotten used to it. My eating disorder went full blown when I left my family and moved to Utah. This is when no one was watching me. I got to buy my own groceries and walk all around town in the middle of the night. I had finally started to see results. My eating disorder had a life of its own. There were so many rules at this point, and I had followed each one as much as I could. 
Looking back at the rules now, I feel embarrassed. There were some that were so outrageous that I don’t even know why I had done them, but ED made sure that I did.

My aunt started noticing my strange behaviors after about three months living with her. She tried to step in and help, but I hated feeling controlled by anyone except ED. I had to hide things better. She wouldn’t let me go anywhere unless she knew that I wasn’t going to buy any more diet pills. Every time I came home my aunt would make me eat and drink. One night I was just done. She wasn’t home yet and my mind was so out of it from all the pills I had taken; this was my opportunity to finally overdose and be done with everything. My aunt got home and was freaking out about all of it. 
I didn’t know that I could scare someone so immensely; I didn't know anyone cared so much. 

I was then put into provo canyon where I still purged after every meal. I was no longer on my diuretics, laxatives, and diet pills and I had hated every minute of it. Once my body was finally able to heal from all the pills, I was very upset about not succeeding in killing myself. After Provo Canyon, they recommended I head to Center For Change and get an assessment. Sure enough, I was put in inpatient. 
It was a long struggle; it still is today, but I am a much better person because of all the things I have gone through. 

Center For Change saved my life. I am so grateful to have been able to get help the time I did. I know I would have eventually died if I hadn’t entered inpatient. I just want everyone to know that there is hope. Looking back, I would have read this story and thought this person is crazy. Now I realize that wasn’t me talking. It was my eating disorder. 
Don’t let yours run you. <3


  1. Love this! She sounds like an amazing person. Having been at cfc multiple times I admire her strength and makes me wanna fight harder. Thank u shelbi for telling your story. Xoxo to u too camilla do u remember me yet tell your older bro hi!!!

  2. Do you not write anymore Camilla?

    1. Because she's relapsed. :(

  3. I haven't completely relapsed. I have days where I lapse and days where I don't.