One more and then I’ll stop. These are empty promises we tell ourselves and our loved ones. Just one more hit. Just one more drink. For me, it was just one more day without eating. One more binge and purge, then I’ll be done. One more day of consuming nothing. Then I’ll stop.
According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 24 million Americans currently suffer from some type of eating disorder. Over 50% of teenage girls as well as almost 33% of teenage boys use some form of unhealthy weight control. This epidemic is spreading to all ages and every gender identification. Everybody knows somebody with an eating disorder.
Think you don’t? My name is Casie and I’m a recovering anorexic. On my 22nd birthday I contemplated suicide over eating a handful of dry cereal. On the outside, everybody thought that I was in complete control. I was a senior at a state university, president of my lacrosse team, member of a sorority, and prepared to graduate with honors. But on the inside, I was rapidly losing my grip on reality. I was running on nervous energy fueled by an anxiety disorder, depression, and crippling OCD. I never slept. I was always cold. I isolated myself, making excuses so that I would never see my friends or family. I was a skeletal ghost, living only with the companionship of my eating disorder. I was alone and slipping into insanity, where food is weakness and emaciation is success.
There are many symptoms of these diseases and it is important to understand them as signs of mental illnesses, NOT lifestyle choices. The following are examples of symptoms but do not cover the full spectrum of symptoms a person may experience.
1. Sudden and rapid weight loss.
2. Skipping or avoiding meals.
3. Stealing money or food.
4. An obsession with thinness and outward appearances.
5. A refusal to maintain a healthy body weight.
6. Depression and isolation.
7. Wearing baggy clothing.
But somehow, I got out. Somehow, many other people get out too. On my 22nd birthday, my parents picked me up from school at midnight. Two days later I was in treatment. Hospitalized for a month, I began to pick up the pieces of my life. Therapy, monitored meals, medication, and support groups have helped me regain myself. It is a long process, and one that I cannot describe fully. I am not recovered. I am, and forever will be, recovering. Always there will be the whisper in my head, taunting me to return to my disorder. But always, I will be fighting.
Marya Hornbacher, novelist and recovering anorexic/bulimic eloquently describes the healing process:
“There is never a sudden revelation, a complete and tidy explanation for why it happened, or why it ends, or why or who you are. You want one and I want one, but there isn't one. It comes in bits and pieces, and you stitch them together wherever they fit, and when you are done you hold yourself up, and still there are holes and you are a rag doll, invented, imperfect. And yet you are all that you have, so you must be enough. There is no other way.”
About the author: Casie is a survivor of anorexia nervosa. She works with young students with psychiatric illnesses and is currently a nursing student at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please visit www.nationaleatingdisorders.org.