Getting over an eating disorder

Getting over an eating disorder

Anonymous Teenage Girl

This patient of Dr. Stan's wanted to share her anorexia story with others ...

When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. With medication, I regained my usual energy and returned to a normal weight. When all of this was going on, I was in the middle of two sports, and suddenly I became faster and stronger than ever before. My skills improved, and I decided to become the best athlete I could possibly be. I changed my diet and ate more fruits and vegetables. Then, I decided to run every day to improve my stamina. From there, I decided to become not just the perfect athlete but the perfect student, child, and overall person I could be. I ate less, studied excessively, never missed a day of exercise, and tried to be extraordinarily helpful so people would not notice any of my faults. My life got to the point where socializing became hard because thinking about food and school and exercise took over my mind. Additionally, I still strove to be what I saw as the perfect human, so I gave up all pleasures including relaxation, hobbies, entertainment, sitting, and even warmth. My relationships with family and friends broke down.  I was miserable. I was suffering from anorexia.

After my second year of high school, my parents decided that I needed help. I went to an out-patient facility three days a week for eight hours each day every week of the summer. I hated being there more than anything. I didn't think I had a problem. I thought that I was smarter than the therapists, and I could not truly relate with many of the other individuals in my group sessions because I wanted to be perfect, not pretty. I was also taking antidepressants because the psychiatrist believed that they would make me less anxious about my eating and perfectionism. However, neither the drugs nor the therapy helped me. I never bought into any of the therapy and told everyone what they wanted to hear. When I was finally taken off the drugs, my thinking was exactly the same as before. For me, being in the outpatient therapy program was like a prison, but it did force me to eat and expand my eating a bit. The real changes, though, had to come from me. My parents threatened to keep me out of school and sports, the only two things I actually cared about at that point. My dreams were dependent upon my schooling, and I could not let the disease ruin my life. 

By the time I realized that my only way to get out of therapy and make it back to school for my junior year was to get better. It was near the end of the summer. I made the decision overnight. But full recovery took most of my junior year. I realized that I could not be perfect. I realized that I needed my family in my life again. I realized that I wanted to be happy, and, most importantly, I realized that food tastes good. Everything started coming back. I found pleasure in life again, and I am happy, healthy and looking forward to college.

It's hard, very hard to get past an eating disorder like anorexia or bulemia, and many don't. Dr. Bonney Reed-Knight has already written an article about the early signs, because it's critical to recognize it as soon as possible. Here one of my patients who wants to remain anonymous, provides her story about how she got past the problem and on with her life. As you'll see, her parents and their rule-setting played important roles. And so, I thank my young friend for her instructive contribution.  Dr. Stan

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