The Golden Road to Hell

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.

22 responses to “The Golden Road to Hell”

  1. Oh my gosh… I can so relate to this. Some of my experiences have been so similar (I haven’t had the courage to write about them yet, but I hope to someday). Thank you for putting this out there, Beauty– it’s so inspiring.

    • Oh my goodness, thank you for these affirming words. I’m glad this resonated with your heart tonight. I hope you do write about it one day. I would love to read your words and your experiences:) sending so many hugs. Xox

  2. okay, so as i continue to read, you are answering some of my earlier questions. I’ll keep quiet and just read on, and hopefully all will be explained. I can see how you were in a “perfect storm” to create this problem.

  3. This is such an honest account of this disease. I have had eating struggles some very deep in my past. I can really relate to trying to be the “Golden Girl” I had never really dug into the why, but reading your story really helps me gain a perspective on this very important subject – Thank-You Rosie

    • Thanks so much Rosie. I’m glad this struck a chord with you. I’m sorry that that connects us, but I’m glad we’re both in a better place:) thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. Big hugs xox

      • Yes for sure I am so happy we are both in a much better place, I was really struck by your words about not being loved without being perfect, that has always been a struggle for me. I am really blown away by your honesty and insight – Thank-You so much for taking your struggle and turning it around to help others, very inspirational – Rosie McNeil

  4. Dear friend,

    You have made a lot of experiences in your life – but nevertheless you could handle your life very well, a captain that knows how to steer the boat. Indeed you have strong personality 🙂

    Have a nice weekend

  5. Good morning (take 2, repeating Friday now in San Francisco)!

    So much is wrapped up in this post – from the vanity-based culture we are immersed in from too young of an age, to the peer pressure that seems to require a counter-response on the lines you describe here. When I was in high school, I had the same views on alcohol, drugs, and sex as you did. It was difficult, to say the least, and very easy to feel like something was “wrong” with me. Plus, I was very religious and trying to navigate that was difficult. As a result, I became addicted to achievement, to recognition. While it manifested in different ways for me, the loss of a sense of true self became very damaging.

    Now, though, I am at an interesting junction on my own journey, as I have “achieved” all that I can in my career (Naval Officer) and I find myself returning to my first passion, writing. One project I am working on is looking back on my writing from the beginning (you will find that I am posting poems from my youth on my blog). I hear a voice in there that sounds familiar, and yet it is different. A young boy confident in what he wanted to be, but feeling very out of place for being that person. That young boy is not all that far removed from this adult man, and it is important for me to understand the continuity in the narrative of my own life.

    There is a thread of what I remember from my youth inside this post, granted, a single thread, the parallels end quickly, but this helps me appreciate my own journey more to include accepting how my own vanity caused me to get on a path that may not have been as authentic or true as I had hoped. And, in many respects took me far from who I wanted to be… now, I am who I am, but what of that authentic human being remains?

    And, I look forward to learning how your faith will challenge my own ideas of faith and God.

    Now… for the next leg of the trip home to see Mom.

  6. Hi…found some time to visit your site today. Although I have blogged I just can’t browse enough on blogs 🙂 and occasionally I stay with my daughter.

    I am now right up to this post. I must say i have shivered in some way as I read through particularly when I got up to this post. Hope you’re keeping well. I will read the current post later on 🙂 God Bless!

  7. You would think our Golden Calves would be easier to identify but dang it if we can’t look at it and see, “Boy, this sure got me out of Egypt. F*** that Moses guy.” Super provocative piece about the ugly head of idolatry.

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