I guess it all started with a diet when I was a sophomore in high school. I had been overweight for awhile, but I hadn't given much thought to it. Then, my grandpa died, and I thought, "Life is really short, and I'm tired of spending it in a body that I hate."
At least, that's what I told myself. Really, I think I was looking for something to take my mind off all the anger and emptiness I was feeling after his death. Dieting helped me deal. By the middle of my junior year, my diet had gotten much more restrictive and more intense -- I was barely eating 500 calories a day, and I was exercising as much as I could. But no matter what I did or how much weight I lost, I didn't like the way I looked. And I started thinking that maybe this was more than a diet.
I had heard about pro-anorexia sites a couple of years before, on an episode of "Boston Public." But I'd forgotten about them until I started wondering if I was developing an eating disorder. As soon as I went to some of the sites, I thought "Wow, yeah, I do." I didn't meet all the criteria, but there were things about distorted body image, looking in the mirror and not seeing what was really there, and no matter how much weight you lost, it wasn't enough.
Her Own Anorexia Web Site
But even though those sites helped me realize what was happening to me, no one site had all the information or the images that I was looking for. I figured I could create a site and it would just be my own resource. I was posting on a few forums on the other pro-ana pages, and I put my link there. After that it just took off.
There's part of me that realizes how bad this disease is for me, and another part that says I have to be thinner no matter what. That's the side that's usually in the most control.
But my web site is about both sides. I want people to read the sections about how it's not all fun and games. Anorexia is not just being skinny: It's physical and emotional hell. I don't want people to think it's all so simple and so light. It's not glamorous.
In October 2003, I finally reached double digits on the scale, and I was just miserable all the time. I looked in the mirror and I didn't see anything different from when I was 148 and first started to diet.
I knew then that if I didn't get help soon, it would never get any better. After I got a therapist, she recommended medical treatment, and in March 2004, at my lowest weight of 88, I was put in the hospital for eight days. That wasn't bad compared to some of the girls who were on bed rest for a month, but it still sucked.
I also have a nutritionist, and she's taught me that food is something that you can't just ignore, that there are certain things your body needs. It's helped to learn what starvation does to your organs.
I was also in family therapy for awhile, and that helped me to learn to talk about things instead of abusing my body to express myself. But my parents and I haven't really talked about it in a long time. I think their point of view is that everything's fine because I don't tell them otherwise. But it's not.
I don't know if it's possible to get past my anorexia completely. It seems like I've given a good portion of my life to it, and even if I stop restricting and take down my web site, I don't know if I'll ever be completely happy with the way I look.
Tips for Spotting Anorexia
The more people know about the symptoms and the warning signs, the better, I think. If parents had more education about the symptoms of eating disorders and what to look for in their kids, that could help and get a lot of kids the treatment they need before they're in a desperate situation.
Here are some of the things to watch for:
- If your child is wearing multiple layers, especially baggy clothing. We get cold easily and it also helps to hide weight loss.
- If he or she is picking at their food a lot, but not really eating.
- If they go off before mealtimes, they're probably taking diet pills, and if they run off somewhere right after a meal, they're probably purging -- especially if it smells like vomit, or too much like soap.
- If they're changing their hairstyle a lot, it may mean that they're trying to hide their hair falling out, especially if they're wearing hats or putting it in a ponytail.
- If they start closing all their Internet windows whenever you walk by, they have something to hide.
I'm not in college right now. I'm living at home with my parents because I had to leave school after I was found to be self-injuring.
But someday, I'd like to be a therapist. I've been on one side of the couch, and I figure my experiences there would give me an insight. I'd really like to work with teenagers and be a high school counselor, because after all, I know what they're going through.
Published on Aug. 11, 2005.