The days at inpatient were long, regimented, and monitored. You ate three meals a day and two snacks between meals. You would have a therapy session every day, either one-on-one with your shrink, or in your “home” group of 4-6 girls. Free time was spent reading, playing cards, doing art, coloring – yes, adults coloring – and just talking with your fellow inmates – I mean inpatients. There was no TV, no music, just you, and your self-destructive thoughts. There was an activity every day, ranging from different breakout groups, like ANA anonymous, equine therapy, art therapy, body image, health classes, bulimia group, etc. My favorite daily activity though, was chapel. Every day for an hour you’d go and hear a sermon and sing some really moving music. On my 14th day there, I had a “mountain top” experience at chapel. Let’s just say I learned that Jesus truly forgave me. I was a blubbering mess of joyful tears after singing the song lyric, “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that Cross.” It still takes my breath away when I think about that moment. I will go into more detail about it in a later entry. I am awaiting the arrival of my inpatient journals from home. But the long and the short of it is that after that experience, things did really start to change for me – for a time. Not only did I accept the fact that I did have an eating disorder, but I confessed everything to my parents. But I’m getting ahead of myself…that’s for another night…
One of my first nights there, at around midnight, I was in bed, and I think I realized that three months was going to be a long ass time. It had only been three days and it already felt like a lifetime. I think I thought that if I could just get the weight on that they’d let me go home early or something. Anyways, I went to the nurses’ station (my room was right there, remember?) and I asked for more supplements: i.e., weight gaining drinks: Ensure Plus, Boost Plus, Boost Pudding, etc. The dietician already had me at the highest amount of supplements they’d issue for safe weight gain (they didn’t want to send the body into shock and Refeeding Syndrome). But I went to the night nurse anyway and asked for more supplement. I explained that I just felt hungry and wanted more calories. So I sat right there and ate 3 Boost Puddings in a row. Bam! 900 calories. Thinking back, that nurse probably could have been fired for that, but how could she argue with a 78 pound anorexic girl begging for weight gaining supplement? I mean, come on, now!? I was told in the morning that I was the only patient that had ever asked for more supplement, let alone three in a row! And that was it. That was my ticket in. With that action, I had become the “golden girl” of the eating disorder treatment clinic. Just how I wanted it, or rather, just how my eating disorder wanted it.
You see, that’s how it all started. Growing up, one could say I was the “golden girl.” My parents and my friends joked that everything I touched turned to gold. You see, I had a wonderful childhood. I had two loving parents, two older siblings and from the age of five, a successful acting career. I excelled in school, had lots of friends, went to church every Sunday, and was good at sports. I loved all things feminine. My entire wardrobe was from Abercrombie – up to and including my underwear. This was known among my friends and they used to joke that I was “perfect.” I remember in particular my one friend would say “I’m Suzie Q. I only wear Abercrombie and I am a size 0.” This used to bother me, but I would laugh it off, and if I’m being honest, a small part of me kind of liked the attention. That seed was planted in sixth grade.
So my sophomore year for Lent I decided to give up sweets. “I’m being a good Catholic, challenging myself.” And as the perfectionist I was, I didn’t cheat once. Now this is where it started. I lost a little weight during this 40 day period, and to be honest, I liked it. I liked the control, and I like being tiny. During this time I also entered the Miss Teen pageant. I had never done anything like that before and looking back now I can see the vanity slowly creeping into my life. At the time I was dating one of the football captains. I remember one day in class, my boyfriend’s friend and fellow captain, made an announcement that all the guys were talking in the locker room about how my boyfriend was dating a model — aka, me. That was the first time I can remember truly caring and loving the attention I was getting for my physical appearance.
A few days later I was nominated for homecoming court as a freshman. Looking back I can see that my appearance and persona was becoming an idol in my own mind.
Additionally, I was the only freshman to make the varsity volleyball team, which was a pretty big deal. I liked the attention from the senior boys and the new popularity with my upperclass teammates. The recognition at school wasn’t so bad either.
It was also at this time that my friends started drinking alcohol underage. My boyfriend at the time was a good Christian boy and we shared similar morals regarding underage drinking and premarital sex. Being the unwavering perfectionist that I am, I didn’t drink or smoke in high school, regardless of my friends’ choices. And being that our friends were all football players and the like, let’s just say they didn’t share the same values. I was at these parties where all my friends were drunk around me, and I felt like such an outsider. Isolated. Like I was being left behind. How is it that surrounded by all my friends, I felt so alone? And I think, instead of accepting and allowing myself to feel that loneliness – that feeling of being a worthless failure – I leaned into the image of being perfect and unattainable. Gosh darn it, I was going to be set apart for a good reason – I was going to be the “Golden Girl.”
That spring I got the lead in the school play and again didn’t mind the attention. And then something happened that made my life come to a screeching halt: I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. This is an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive system like Crohn’s. Food became my enemy as it truly did hurt to eat and I was in excruciating pain all day. I was put on steroids to get me out of the flare. Here’s the thing: steroids heal the inflammation, but also alter a person’s psyche. When I went on steroids, my doctor told me that a side effect was that a lot of women gained weight. Sirens went off in my mind. Oh hell no. There is no way in hell that I’m going to succumb to weight gain from a damn pill. This thinking, on top of the mental changes brought on by the steroids, manifested itself with an obsession in my mind to not gain weight. And so began the saga of the eating disorder and the deception that comes along with it.
Fast forward the clocks a year, and I’ve wasted away to nothing, lost most my friends, betrayed the people I love the most, threw away my future, and am stuck in Arizona at an eating disorder clinic while my friends are attending graduation parties and getting ready for college in the fall.