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  • Writer's pictureGina Cullen

My Story

Updated: May 7

I don’t know who you are, and you don’t know who I am. But I want to share what I can to turn a new leaf; and reveal the me that is no longer hiding behind a false career ambition, a thousand pictures in bikinis, several hundred happy captions below “my life is so great” photos; and, beginning my point, a severely malnourished body. I suffer from Anorexia Nervosa, a mental illness that shuts down the brains survival skills when it comes to nutrition.


Content Warnings: *Pictures of Severe Malnourishment, Weights, Caloric Restriction, Severe Anorexia Nervosa, Hospitalization, Emotional Abuse, Suicidal Ideations/Acts, Self Harm Behaviors, Sexual Acts


Notes:

- Curly and Jud are fictitious names set in this blog to conceal the identities of involved persons.

- Italicized sentenced are internalized thoughts.

- This is a very, very long read. (19 years long!)

- 2021 Section-End: Content Warning *Pictures of Severe Malnourishment (begin)



 

Introduction: Anorexia Nervosa

Before I begin, every detail holds importance to the story; hence, it is a very long one. What one finds in recovery is that there is no generalization of an event, especially ones leading to trauma and/or traumatic events in themselves.

There are a lot of misconstrued ideas about the disease, such as, “It’s a fear of gaining weight,” or, “It’s a fear of food.” But, it’s not! It’s so much more than that. Anorexia was my way of controlling my life when I felt like I had no control at all. It was my way of compensating for the things I was told I wasn’t good at, the things I couldn’t be, and the false ideas that I had believed about myself. I believed that I was a bad person. I believed that if I could control one thing that people couldn’t negatively judge, I would have peace. Growing up in the 2000's, the body isn't just a body to most teenagers; it's the key to positive attention, relationships, confidence and most notably, validation.


(2007-2016) Childhood: Self Harm Behaviors

My mental health has never truly been in health. As a child, I would often ask friends to hit me at my aftercare or when feeling guilty/in trouble, I would bang my head against the wall in my bedroom. However, I had my first true, conscious experience with self harm in fourth grade, the year when my suicidal ideations first began. These lasted throughout the rest of elementary school, peaked in middle school, fell freshman year of high school and peaked again my sophomore year all the way through to the end of senior year. I would let no one know, because I was fearful of being perceived as a burden. So, I became the funny friend, the theatre kid, the weird girl with "nice" boobs, and the out-of-pocket/shock value girl; distractions to hide the parts of me that I was fearful of.


However true they were, these identities were unfulfilling identities at the time, because what I really wanted to be was okay. Something I discovered about myself in treatment was that throughout life, if I was ever handed a label, I clung to it - bad or not - and attached it to the idea of myself I had already assumed position of. I would then play around with the identity I was holding onto, and fit in all the other words or adjectives I believed other people associated with me, even if it was based on one conversation. It wouldn't take away the way the control I needed over other people's perceptions of me if I was able to pretend that I wanted those perceptions. I have always needed an identity to hold onto - something to give me purpose. The first one began in fifth grade. Cheerleading, funnily enough, was the first.


I began competitive cheerleading after several years of sideline REC. I was in 5th grade and my uniform was a piece of fabric. Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday I was being thrown by 6th-8th graders who were beginning to transition into their mature bodies. At first, I didn't feel shame - I simply noticed that I didn't look like them. However, by the end of my first season, I was standing in front of the mirror and pinching my armpits every night before I went to bed. Why don't I look like them? I looked up to them. They were older, stronger, and more experienced. But, I had nothing to worry about because in a short amount of time, I was going to be just like them.


September, 2011

March 17th, 2014


I continued what became my life of cheerleading. It, as I had mentioned previously, became my identity. I ate like an athlete, because I was an athlete. Food was simply fuel. I ate when I was hungry, and I didn't eat when I wasn't hungry. By 8th grade, I had started to notice that I had abs and lean limbs, and received praise from cheer moms and coaches for my, "ideal figure." A common comment was: "You're a sexy little thang!"


(2017) Phase 1: Validation v. Entering Performing Arts

While cheerleading was my life, it was more of a way to express my love and passion for performance. I had wanted to be a performative singer since the womb. However, when I entered my freshman year of high school, I met a life-changing teacher who opened my life up to a new world: Musical Theatre. When I received praise for my vocal performances, I felt something overwhelming powerful: Validation. A performer was going to be my new identity; And by my sophomore year of high school, it was. I auditioned for my high school's award-winning musical theatre class/program at the end of my freshman year, and when I saw my name on the list of admitted students, I felt security. This was something that I was going to put my entire life into, and people were going to see me the way I wanted to be seen. I finished my last season of cheerleading and began my new venture.


October 24th, 2019


I remember my first audition for a show within the program as if I had recorded it with a hidden camera. It was a day that marked the beginning of my first love, the rising action of this story, and my mental shift towards the phrase, "always say, 'yes.'" What torments me to this day is that I had always believed that I was terrible at performing, and that belief followed me everywhere until someone counteracted it with a comment such as, "I wish I was as good as you." It felt good to be acknowledged in the arts, as I was being perceived the way I thought I needed to be perceived in order to righteously take space. However, I always found it strange that I loved the stage, yet hated the idea of ever becoming famous. Something I heard a lot from the media was that, "Success in the arts end in fame."I didn't want fame; but I did want an audience of people who understood my internalized issues. I would have never spoken out about these issues had I not left the arts, so this idea was flawed!


(2018-2021) Phase 2: Manifesting Thoughts v. The Relationship

In all of my relationships, I had convinced myself that I was somewhat of a last alternative or second-fifth choice. I was dating someone at the time of these auditions, but we had mutually broken up after a sincere conversation about his feelings for another girl. Beforehand, I remember trying to compensate with gifts for what I thought I was lacking; paintings to be specific. All I could tell myself was that we wouldn't have broken up if I was better. Many humans experience situations like these, especially in high school! However, it is the repetition of a certain event/phrase, no matter how "high school," that can create traumatic reactions or beliefs about oneself.


This same year, I got to know the person who would open a door for me to feel more loved and loathed than any other human ever has. Curly was beautiful, a musician, a good friend to others and someone who I had believed I was going to marry. Before I begin, I would like to state to anyone reading that Curly is not the reason for my anorexia, however the words and behaviors heard/witnessed in this relationship began the manifestation of beliefs that would later shape the disease.


The manifestation of my internalized belief that sexual compliance with men would provide me award and validation would begin on our first date; and had I said, "no," that belief may not have come to light. He had politely asked to kiss me, and I, very much wanting to, said yes. It was only the second boy I'd ever kissed, so when he asked me to sit on his lap moments later, I was left thinking, if I say no, is he not going to like me? Will he think I'm too reserved? Does he know I've never really done this sort of stuff before? I made the choice to ignore my intuition and say, "Okay." Mid-kiss, he impulsively asked me to be his girlfriend. Reward. I remember feeling like it was a joke. Why would he want to date me? I would have never suspected that it was going to mark the day when I would slowly begin to mold myself into the identity of, "Curly's girlfriend."


By our second date, we were in the back of his car and I was feeling ashamed of myself for telling him, "I don't think I'm ready," and watching him respond with a loud pause. I remember feeling disappointed in my discomfort. It was a common question: "Do you think you're ready yet?" until after two weeks of our relationship, when he had told me: "I love you." If I don't do this soon, I'm going to lose the only boy to ever love me. I wish I had established boundaries as strong as the ones I have today, but at the time, I, myself, made the choice to ignore my discomfort. This is the way it is. Six weeks afterwards, I would be cheated on for the first time. The shame that I had felt from my last relationship came back. I should be enough for him, and I'm not. This wouldn't have happened if I was better. Am I bad at s-...?



Unknown Date, 2020


I began to question my attractiveness more deeply and I quickly sexualized myself as a resolve. It was the first time when I questioned my physical appearance for being the reason of someone's disloyalty or what felt like, my "not enough-ness." I stayed silent about my knowing for two weeks until he had finally told me after I had performed a sexual task. Why did he wait until after? And, why did I not say anything? Why did I put myself in this position in the first place? I began to feel fearful of never receiving what I believed to be love ever again. He regrets what he did. Look at how hard he's trying. I-am-worth-it. On one occasion I received 28 back-to-back calls. He wants me back. I am enough, and he is proof of that. However, 3 weeks after our second attempt, I had been cheated on again. Others began to notice my emotional weakness to validation. This pattern of breaking up → reuniting repeated possibly +10 times, whether it be cheating or compulsive lying; and with every new attempt, I lost more and more of what seemed like the ability to say no - to anything. I'm obviously special if he keeps coming back to me. I am still wanted. I am enough so long as he wants me.


I began to witness his body-shaming of others. Several times, we had been out and seen an obese person walking out of a restaurant or just simply exercising. Curly would often follow with a comment such as, "Why do people do that to themselves?" or, "How can they live with themselves? It's selfish." But he loves me. And I don't look disappointing to him, right? However, after making the poor choice of watching him scroll through his social media feeds, I began to notice patterns in what he took notice of. But all guys follow girls who look like that! I need to chill out. I, in fact, did not chill out. I began to body check; and I checked off that I had thighs that were too large, facial cheeks that were too round, and a stomach that was not as flat as it should be. This is why I am not enough for him.


"Why are any of these details important?" I wouldn't blame anyone for wondering how something so common could trigger the manifestation of such a traumatic response, such as the manifestation of an eating disorder. After all, almost every human experiences repeated behaviors of disloyalty from at least one relationship if their mind allows. The truth is that most of the relationships, and early friendships in my life were a form of self-harm, only I didn't know that when involved. When those relationships weren't there anymore, anorexia subconsciously gave me a way to receive that harm I believed I deserved; yet also a sense of security/consistency. In this relationship, I continuously allowed my ex-partner's outward noises (negative comments about other people's bodies, social media feeds, belly comparisons, comments about our needing to eat healthier, etc.) to interrupt my inward noises, ("This doesn't feel right," "I'm uncomfortable," "I think I don't deserve this," "NO,") therefore shifting my neural pathways to accept these outside comments and behaviors as justified.


(2020-2021) Phase 3: "Perf!"

COVID-19 had hit the U.S. and we were all in quarantine. I took up running out of boredom and curiosity, and I fell in love with it. I didn't realize it was happening when it was, but I lost weight quickly. I couldn't help but notice that not only was I receiving more validation from Curly, but I was receiving validation from many, many others. With every post, I received comments such as, "Bod!" or my favorite, "perf!" I continued to lose weight through exercise because I had not known the rules in upping one's physical activity. (You must increase your intake when increasing your output to maintain.)


March 25th, 2021


By my senior year of high school, I felt fulfilled. I felt sought after for my looks online, consistently receiving DM's from college football players, compliments from friends of my friends of my friends, ambassador offers from well-known companies, but most importantly, validation from Curly. I had even won the title at my school's beauty pageant, which I had later decided was only due to my physique. I had 3 vacations planned for the summer, which were all going to be some of my first vacations without parental supervision, and I committed to an award-winning college in New York City to pursue a Bachelors of Fine Arts in musical theatre. Everything is perfect. However, looking back, none of this was perfect. I didn't want to pursue musical theatre - I only wanted to be heard and validated for something others found interesting. I didn't want to be in relations with Curly - I was at the peak of my inability to speak up for myself in any social setting. I also missed out on social events - I went to my senior prom for 15 minutes because I felt bad for Curly who was waiting in the car!


(2021) Phase 4: Sexual Attention

Somewhere in the summer of 2021, I officially escaped Curly and I's relationship. However, I didn't take time to process my hurt before throwing myself into whoever's arms would take me. I sexualized my body even further, and convinced myself that I could like being intimate with others. I was in a quiet relationship with a boy by July, but later found out through a close friend that I was being "used for sex." I didn't question it; I knew that it had to be true, because it was all I am good for. If I don't have this body, I don't have anything. This is what people want from me. I will do anything to maintain this body. (How did I even get it though? I eat normally.)


July 2nd, 2021: Miami, FL


(2021-2022) Phase 5: New York v. Lingering Issues

That goal didn't last long when moving away to New York. I had entered my college with the genuine intent to make it onto Broadway, and to this day, I believed that if I had truly loved it for what it was, it would have happened. I was constantly in studios, audition rooms, casting calls, and classes. There was no time to worry about my body. I don't even know what I'm doing to look like this? There was no time to post on instagram for the sake of receiving a couple more, "bod" comments. It was only Broadway. It was only auditions. I've gotten an identity back.


October 23rd, 2021: New York, NY


I had made several friends who loved to party, and they remain to be some of the most genuine and fun people I know; However, several nights a week of fun water and New York pizza began to poke at my body. I hadn't realized this until the 2021 Talent Show Case that our school had held auditions for. My mom came to visit for the performance, and I remember how good I felt about myself. That thought was butchered when my mom pulled out her phone in the hotel room and played the video for me. "I'm a pig," I remember saying. We were eating Chinese food, and I looked down at my finished plate and repeated, "I'm a pig."


Around this same time, my birth mom was attempting to reach out to me. It had been known for some time that she was struggling with hard-drug usage, and alcohol. She would create a new instagram account under a false name and once blocked, create another one. I would recieve messages about her wanting me to be aborted, or how I was always going to fail. For the most part, whatever she was typing never made sense. It usually read as a lot of globbed words with a period every now and then. Nonetheless, the words and sentences that I could make out were either strange or simply inappropriate.


(2021) Phase 6: First Attempt

I still couldn't find the courage to block Curly. A part of me felt that if I did, it would be officially closing the door to love. He was busy, yet he would attempt to call every now and then. I received several voicemails a week, most of them mainly containing words such as, "miss," or, "love." However, one day I had made the poor choice of calling back after listening to frantic voicemail. He picked up and was still in a panic. He had told me that had been exchanging sexual photos with a girl, and had been "blackmailed by the guy she was apparently working for until I sang for him." My friends were convinced that he was sick, but I was convinced that I was the sick one for still caring. I won't share the way in which I attempted, as I am aware many people may be here to convince themselves out of the same decision; However, I had my first failed attempt at suicide that night. My roommates never found out and I quietly went to dance the next morning.


(2022) Phase 7: Behaviors Begin

It hit me only one week after. It was so easy. It was brilliant. It was my new distraction from the climactic pain that I had been feeling since my sophomore year of high school. My subconscious knew what it was doing when it began to feed me the idea of restricting my food intake. It was a form of punishment for not being enough, yet it would also give me a sense of accomplishment. It would give me what I had convinced myself of all of my life, which is that humans will truly love and feel attracted to me if I’m thin, curvy, and sexually compliant. This is what will help me maintain the body they all loved. I looked at the girls from my high school who seemed so desired by guys or would hit 900+ likes on their post, and I decided that I was going to be okay if I looked like them. Remember how fulfilled you felt when you looked like that? People were going to like me. I was going to like me. Everything was going to be okay.


May 21st, 2022: Trip Home


It started small. I had read online that 1,300 was the bare minimum of caloric intake a human could survive on. I began to count, and soon food was no longer food - it was a number that would determine whether or not I would like myself again. It wasn't hard, because my brain became a calculator after 3 months. By the summer of 2022, I was an expert at maintaining a life on 1,300 calories a day. It was this same summer when I had found myself in a new relationship. Jud and I were best friends in high school, and I remember always thinking that whoever he was going to marry, was going to be extremely lucky. He saw me count. He saw me cry. He saw me pinch my skin in the mirror. Yet, he never judged me. I, however, judged him. "You're gonna eat all of that?" I would ask sometimes. I was jealous. How come he gets to eat that and I can't? I wanted to control it. I would put down his choices in hopes that it would make me feel secure in mine.


One may believe that 1,300 calories a day is enough to keep one emotionally stable, but by the month before I left for New York again, I was experiencing numbness. I would want to take pictures of every "good body" day and remind people that "I'm still pretty!" It was numbness that would only dissolved when I had fun water or a bite of food. Luckily, this didn't get out of hand, but I always wanted to have fun water with Jud. It allowed me to feel something other than resistance. Why am I feeling resistance? I had always loved Jud, whether it was romantically or friendly; but my disorder didn't and it was on its way to a peak. Simple restriction was about to become a thing of the past. My Anorexia was beginning.


(2022) Phase 8: Drastic Caloric Decrease

I returned in late July 2022 to New York for the beginning of my sophomore year. I was now living in an apartment with a roommate, who I didn't know very well, on the Upper East Side. My body hadn't changed much on 1,300 calories a day. Do I have leptin resistance? I convinced my mom to let me see a nutritionist. She is going to give me the perfect plan for the perfect body. I dropped her after receiving my meal plan, which was very much over 1,300 calories a day.


It was 900 calories a day by September. I would show up to my dance class on an empty stomach, begin stretches before anyone else arrived, and then drink a 0-calorie energy drink or eat a handful of bagged Cheerios to casually show people that "I was just naturally thin and did, in fact, eat." I carefully counted what I ate for the rest of the day until the number of my iPhone calculator displayed "900." However, this number became, "875," then, "810," and then "750." I had taken a job in Times Square at Levi's, and I remember punching numbers after eating three pretzels from a 110 calorie package in the break room's vending machine. My coworkers would walk in with food from the stores around us... McDonalds, Olive Garden, Popeyes. I would look at their bodies and judge them. God, I am so glad I don't eat like that. I should have eaten like that, because on several different occasions I found myself fainting in the dressing rooms and going home early for "nausea." I quit after one month.


July 25th, 2022: Levi's Times Square


My relationship with Jud was suffering. I had no feeling. I had no motivation. I would respond to his texts and quickly move along to my important business: logging the calories at every restaurant I could find. This became an obsessive hobby, and as there are many, many restaurants in the world, this hobby took up most of my time. By the time I was hospitalized in 2023, I had over 678,000 characters in my iPhone's notes and Google Docs, which contained every dish listed from every restaurant I had the energy to type; some not even based in America. I would FaceTime Jud every night and only talk about myself, snapping at him if he seemed too happy. Why can't he read my mind and see how much pain I'm in? We had a mutual breakup, blaming it on the struggles of maintaining a long-distance relationship. However, I knew that this wasn't the case; I simply didn't have enough emotional, mental or physical energy for a relationship with anything other than calories.


(2022) Phase 9: Extreme Isolation

By October, I was eating 600 calories a day and had convinced my family to let me move to Brooklyn and into an apartment by myself. This was my disorders way of pulling me into severe isolation. I now had excuses to not go out with my friends or dinners. "It's a 50 minute subway ride, and I don't want to get back too late, I'm sorry!"


I was getting thinner, and by Halloween 2022, I was satisfied. I dressed as the Black Swan, and practically cried in relief when I fit into an XS leotard and tutu. I held the confidence that I had held when I was a senior in high school, only I wasn't feeling anything. I had simply accomplished my job. I arrived to the party I was going to and was immediately pushed to the kitchen by my friends to grab drinks. Everything was going smoothly, but my mind was preoccupied with how many calories were in the drinks we were sipping on. By 12pm, I was ready to go home. It had been two hours and it was time for me to isolate.


(2022) Phase 10: 300 Calories/Day

November came around and I arrived home for Thanksgiving. I could feel the eyes on me. My step-grandma grabbed my face and told me that the moment I got back to New York, I needed to order and eat an entire cake. I was so offended. Don't you dare put down the work I've done. I'm healthy now. I just wasn't before. I went into the kitchen and saw a table of desserts. I'm not allowed. My body is different. If I eat something like that, I could gain a copious amount of weight. There was a large carrot cake in the corner of the room, and I pulled out my phone to calculate how much I could eat of it that wouldn't go over 600 calories. Wait, but then I can't have any of the stuffing. I shouldn't want stuffing. "Unhealthy" people like stuffing. These were the types of thoughts that pushed my daily caloric intake down. I was ashamed of my desire for food. Little did I know that my intense cravings for food were my bodies remaining survival cues speaking. You need food. You need fat. Thanksgiving was my first and last experience of making myself sick after eating. I would finish what I called a "plate" (or 1/3 of a plate) of food and then quickly run up to my room's bathroom and lean over my toilet. As I mentioned, I didn't make myself sick again after Thanksgiving, but my disorder had convinced me that I had been bad. When I returned to New York, it whispered, "300 calories a day."


December 24th, 2023: Christmas Eve


I don't remember a lot of December 2022, which I have now learned is due to my body conserving it's energy for the heart and brainstem. I was having issues breathing; but nothing would stop me from making it to my classes and maintaining my GPA. I continued to appear at daily dance, only to arrive and sit out due to my favorite excuse of "nausea." It would take me 4 minutes to walk up the steps of a subway, which I inevitably had to do 8 times a day for classes, errands, and occasional plans. No one ever made comments on how thin I was getting, so I was convinced that I simply wasn't. My hair was falling out in clumps, especially when I brushed it; so I simply did not. My mom arrived by surprise on the 7th. She now explains this arrival as being due to her FaceTiming me during a visit to my Grandma's grave (an event that she wanted me to be a part of) and my being somewhat unresponsive. My mom hadn't told me that she was coming until she was already on the plane. When she did arrive, her excuse was, "I just know you're going through a lot and I wanted to be here for you for the last 2 weeks of the semester." My mom knew, just like I did, that I was dying - only, she cared and I didn't.


I had never screamed or cursed anyone the way I did at my mom in the following two weeks. The semester was almost over, and I was coming to terms with the fact that I didn't want to pursue musical theatre, nor had I ever. Before my mom arrived, I had told her that I needed to come home, and never return to New York. I was convinced that it was New York that was making me so miserable. She packed my boxes for me while I was away at school, and she would watch Life 360 as I got back into Brooklyn, tracking me to make sure I was okay. I now know that she wasn't being dramatic when doing this, but in the moment, I was so angry at her for getting involved in the work that my disorder was doing. Every night, I would make her sit on my uncomfortable chair in the living room, while I sat on my bed and began tracking more calories from restaurants or as I would tell her, "doing schoolwork." I knew for myself the moment that I almost laid a hand on the woman I love most that I had a problem. It took me that long, but it was too late to get help on my own will.


December 26th, 2022


I received a medical leave from my college for the second semester. When we returned home (permanently) in late December, I immediately resumed isolation. I did, however, complete the family traditions. I also brought a measuring cup with me to these traditions to make sure that I would never go over my daily limit. I can have both. Isolation, however, was the cure for avoiding food altogether. If I am not surrounded by temptation, there is no threat to my hard work. I remained in my room as much as possible, and when asked to step out of this safe place, I would become extremely irritable.



January 5th, 2023


(2023) Phase 11: Doctors Become Involved

As I mentioned, I knew that I needed help. However, my disorder was not happy about this. When offered help, my disorder rejected it. I allowed my mom to take me to the doctors weekly where I would get labs and weighed. I, however, had a secret. My weight was 79 lbs. and in knowing this, before every appointment I would water load the night before and day of the appointments. This clearly wasn't enough falsified added weight. Each time, I was recommended to go to the ER. I remember laughing in the doctor's face and telling him that he was being dramatic after telling me that I was going to die soon. They're trying to scare me. I'm breathing. I'm fine. When I'm not breathing, I'll know I'm not fine. I verbally communicated that I was willing to see a therapist, but my doctors and loved ones were pushing for more: Hospitalization.


300 calories a day turned into 130 calories a day. Sometimes I screamed at nothing. I would have tantrums where I would bang my head on the hardest surface I could find, not knowing what it would do, but hoping that I would feel something. My adrenaline would pump so hard sometimes that I flipped chairs one day, when screaming at my mom about how I was never going to go to a hospitalization residency. I'm an adult. She called a therapist who specialized in eating disorders, but after seeing my lab results and weight, the therapist told my mom that it was too late for me to be admitted to an eating disorder residency much less a therapeutic approach of recovery. "She needs to go to the ER immediately." This is a night that I remember clearly, brain-fog aside. I had gotten my clothes out of the dryer and was walking through the kitchen when I heard my dad's voice. My step mom then appeared, and soon following, my step-dad, my mom and my dad. "We need to talk my love," my step mom said. They told me what the therapist had shared. My disorder was celebrating. You did it! Congratulations. I'm so proud of you, and I love you. I don't know what it was, but the smallest internal part of me that was left stood up, walked upstairs, packed a bag, and allowed them to take me to the ER.


January 24th, 2023: Scottish Rite


(2023) Phase 12: Hospitalization

I was admitted to Scottish Rite and stayed in the ER for 2 weeks. During my stay, the nurses and doctors would repeatedly stress that I was close to death, and should not discharge myself as I was threatening to. My heart rate was at an average of 41 bpm, the lowest being 37. It would jump up to 131-144 bpm when standing. This is called severe orthostatic postural tachycardia syndrome. I was told that if I didn't finish the meals they provided, I would have to supplement with a meal-replacement drink. If I didn't supplement, I would be tubed. I didn't want this, so I ate when they were watching and hid the food in my panties when they weren't. I came up with many tricks during my stay at Scottish Rite. I would "drink" my milk through a straw, only to spit it into an empty water bottle and pour the milk down the toilet. I just saved myself 150 calories. In calculating what I truly was eating, I found that I was eating 1,200 calories a day by the time I left. They want you to be unhealthy. My lab work inevitably got better, but there were still a lot of health concerns after my discharge - the main one being my weight and orthostatic measurements. Soon, my worst fear came true. The hospital transferred me over to an eating disorder residency a week after this discharge, and the real work began. My life would never be the same.


January 28th, 2023: Scottish Rite (Note: In this video, I am responding to looking at my "bloated" face as a means of inspiring myself to "start over as soon as I get out.")


I was so scared. If I gain 10 pounds, there is no possible way that they're going to admit me. So, in this gap week between the hospital and the residency, I ate as much as my disorder would allow. I didn't feel proud of myself for eating. In fact, I felt so much guilt that I was tempted to run away just for the sake of keeping my body thin. My brain was still not functioning, so thoughts like these sounded extremely rational to me. There was one night when my friend was going to come over. My obsession with the things I "couldn't have" were at a peak, so I suggested that we have a "dessert platter night." In reality, I just wanted an excuse to eat sweets without guilt. My body was craving fat, and most sweets, as we know, have high fat content. (Our bodies are in tune with our cravings. Listen to them.) I felt the most shame I'd ever felt so far when she arrived and I ate more than her. How could I have done that? I'm disgusting. I'm going to become a binge eater if I ever eat a sweet again. Hint: That did not happen. It was actually nights when I ate, that I ended up losing even more weight. This was due to my body hyper-metabolizing. Some nights, we would order in from the "unhealthiest" restaurants my brain could think of. I would eat until I was sick. I was determined to get out of the running for a residency, however a piece of me had reappeared that said, "You've needed this. Take it." Those were moments when my disorder would say, "That's not okay. You need to compensate for this now," and the following day, I would make sure to eat as little as possible without anyone noticing. The hospital had told me that I "could not overshoot," and therefore, should eat as much of whatever I wanted. This made me feel some relief when I would eat a full plate of food, which I did three times within this gap week. Even still, I was not following the meal plan the hospital had provided my mom with. I would plate my meals and snacks, put them in my bra, walk up to my room and dump them out of my bedroom window.


(2023) Phase 13: Treatment

The day had come to leave home for the next 6 weeks and live in what I expected to be an asylum-like facility with a bunch of what I thought were going to be competitive, mean humans. There were no competitive, mean humans - only new friends. I had no idea that this same day was going to be the day when I would begin my true meal completion record. I was terrified of what would happen if I didn't eat my food, as some patients had been there for 3+ months because of their refusal. I watched many of these patients receive warnings of being tubed - and some were.


There was at least one patient a day who got sick at mealtimes, whether it be in the younger units or my unit - the adult unit. After patio time, it wasn't rare to walk to our second snack and see a pile of throw up being wiped up by the cleaning ladies right outside of the dining room. Our bodies could sometimes not handle the amount of food we were given after such extreme malnutrition, as we were, in fact, portioned abnormally copious amounts of food. But I didn't care; I didn't want to get tubed, I wanted to like myself without my weight being a determining factor, and I wanted to feel mental relief. Food is your medicine right now. I hated being told that, but I knew that it was true. We had 3 meals and 3 snacks a day; however, we were being plated with the amount of food a recovering patient needs, which is much, much more than what the average human needs on a daily basis. My body, however, did not respond well to the sudden increase in nutrition. I suffered from severe edema, which is the abnormal swelling of the body, mine being primarily in the legs. I was peeing 20+ times a day and having acid reflux, which I would swallow to avoid being marked for incompletion (which is what would happen if someone got sick. It is possible for some individuals to make themselves sick on command.)


My brain began to work faster at week 2. I was working with counselors and exchanging struggles with other severely sick individuals on a 24/7 basis, coping with my disorder, my intrusive thoughts, and the belief that I was abnormal, isolated, and stuck in this disease. I saw a dietician twice a week, a therapist twice a week, and a psychiatrist once a week where I learned the truths that I had turned away from. I knew that I was recovering when I was given permission to begin plating my own food and I would chose sweets without guilt. My fears of food began to dissipate with each conversation and meal I had allowed my body. With a brain that could process emotions and information again, I was beginning to find motivation to be healthy - not skinny. I was in residential treatment for 5.5 weeks before I was discharged. I completed every meal, and I found once discharged (purely out of curiosity) that at the end of each day, my caloric intake was around 3,500-4,000 calories in residency. I gained around 30 pounds in 6 weeks. I was then stepped-down to PHP: (Partial Hospitalization Program) A program where one goes to treatment with more medically/mentally stabilized patients from 8am-2:30pm and then goes home for the rest of the day and night.


In PHP, I still had almost 15 more pounds to gain, and it was the most painful experience I have endured so far in my 19 years of life. By week 2, the level of fullness I felt after each meal left me almost unable to walk up to my room. There were nights when I couldn't sleep because of the pain. But I had one thing keeping me going: Goals. "No person should ever have to experience this. No one should ever believe the lies this world is told about 'health.' I'm going to help myself, and then I'm going to help them." My body was not wanting to reach the weight that the dietician had plotted based on my growth chart. However, my body eventually got there at 5 weeks, and after being discharged, my body naturally lowered to it's "set point," which is the normal range of weight that our individual bodies want to sit at. I was in PHP for 5 weeks before I was discharged.


(2023-Today) Phase 14: Recovery

April 27th, 2023: Day 1 (Out of Treatment)


I don't blame cheerleading for my anorexia. I don't blame social media for my anorexia. I don't blame Curly for my anorexia. I blame the power that my mind gave to others. I blame the genetics of my body that predisposed me to trauma and my generalized anxiety disorder. My brain has never just been a brain, but a powerhouse for creativity and therefore, creative self-destruction. My brain is healing the way that my heart eventually did. Today, I am enjoying my life as a full-time student in college, and eating the foods that I enjoy through a body that is officially: recovered. I've resumed seeing humans as beautiful again, without comparing my arms to theirs. I've resumed allowing friendships to form again, without allowing an imbalance to a relationship with myself. I can run, produce and share my music, balance my passions of psychology with film/TV, have my cake (and it eat it too.) I'm being treated for complex PTSD and my GAD; and, with every day, there is a new trophy achieved in overcoming the effects of these mental illnesses. I have officially moved back into my home state to earn my bachelors, soon masters, then doctorate; and I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping those who, just like me, believed that life was not a safe place.


Gina

 

BONUS: Affirmations for "Yes" People

  1. Just because someone responds negatively to what I say, does not deem it wrong to say.

  2. I'm allowed to take care of myself.

  3. I'm allowed to like myself without other people's approval.

  4. I don't owe anyone an apology for my refusal to comply with their desires, including sexual ones.

  5. My idea of beautiful does not have to align with other people's.

  6. I have not done anything in my life to deem me unworthy of happiness.

  7. I have the power to change to someone's life, including my own.

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