Learning to Love Myself: Paige’s Story

Author: Paige S.

FB_IMG_1471826119202My story is difficult for me to share because I have such a hard time putting everything into words. It all feels like a blur, like it was another life. But it was real. It happened, and I’m still learning to come to terms with that. I refer to my Eating disorder as “ED” throughout my post because, just like others who have gone through this terrible disease know, your eating disorder is not you. It is something entirely separate from who you really are, trying to take away your life little by little. This a very condensed version of my story, but I will be forever willing to share it to the best of my ability.

I still remember 7th grade health class. My teacher was teaching us about eating disorders, and I couldn’t understand them. Why would anyone not want to eat? Food is amazing! I remember laughing with my friends [about] how I would never be able to become anorexic because I just “loved food way too much” or [because] I didn’t have the “will power” to not eat. 13-year-old Paige had no idea that 5 years later, she [herself] would come into contact with “ED”, the disease that turned her life upside down forever.

Growing up, I was never by any means fat. Was I as skinny or as “fit” as my others friends? No, I was not, and I didn’t let it bother me. But, other people would constantly get into my head. One of my brothers, who I’ll keep anonymous, called me a “fat bitch” whenever he was angry with me. My mom would have conversations with me about losing 5-10 pounds. My yearly psychical was a nightmare because I would always get “the talk”. Apparently I was  at “risk” for being obese and my weight always concerned my doctor.

By the time I was a senior in high school, I was very scared and confused about what I was going to do with my life. I didn’t feel smart or good enough to be able to succeed in any career path, and I truly believed I would fail in college. The end of October, I visited an army recruiter and was sold on joining the military. However, I was over the weight limit for my height and was told to lose at least 15 pounds. I was determined. I wanted to be able to join the army. I wanted desperately for my brother to not call me hurtful names. I, more than anything, just wanted to fit in and feel pretty and worth it like everyone else. So, one day, I went cold turkey on everything that wasn’t “clean”. This would be the beginning of my downward spiral.

I exercised and ate healthy and the weight came off right away. People were noticing my weight loss and giving me compliments. I had never been so happy in my life. But, when my weight loss came to a dramatic STOP, I was scared and confused. I couldn’t gain back everything I just lost. I would not go back to the way I was. I was never going to eat unhealthy again. I was ashamed of who I was [and so convinced myself that the old] Paige did not exist anymore. So, I made the decision that flipped my life truly upside down. I stared counting calories.

I started kickboxing about 3-4 days a week, [resting] on the other days, and eating about 1300-1400 calories a day. Even then I was always hungry. My body wasn’t used to eating that little. But once again, the weight began to come off little by little. However, as time went on, my calorie intake dramatically decreased. I started eating 1200, then 1000, then 800. I was still very active, playing softball when the spring came around and kickboxing because I felt like the workout I got from softball was not enough for me.

During my softball season, my body felt the effects of my anorexia. I was always FREEZING. I could not handle the March and April weather, and I suffered during practices and games. ED took my love of softball away from me, and I started to dread games, especially when the forecast was anything below 65 degrees. Whenever my softball team would get together for meals, I would never eat with them. My high school softball coach actually took notice that I never ate and started to ask me questions. My ED was terrified by her occasional “interrogation”, and I always shrugged her off and went on with my day.

Fast forward to summer ’14, the last summer before all my friends left for college. Because my ED had taken over, I never went out. I isolated myself because, if I went out, I was afraid I was going to be tempted to eat. I stopped kickboxing all together because I could not handle the workout anymore, simply not [having] enough energy. So, I did the treadmill to burn as [many] calories as possible. [I did it] every single day. If, for some reason, I could not workout because the gym was closed for a holiday, I was relentless. I cried and cried and was worried that I would gain weight because I couldn’t have my normal workout. By the time I started my first semester of college, I was eating fewer than 500 calories a day and burning twice that on the treadmill. ED told me that I needed to workout before class at 8am, so I would be at my gym’s front door every morning when it opened at 5:30 am. I was a walking zombie. Tired, starving, depressed, I didn’t know if I could go on any longer like this. I had no drive or motivation for school work and my grades showed that.

Now, when people saw me, they did not compliment me but [rather showed their concerns]. I can’t remember how many [times] people said to me [that] “I was too skinny”. But, [I remember that] it was almost everyday. My eating disorder LOVED this. It felt like the greatest compliment in the entire world, and my ED told me that what I was doing was worth it.

By January 2015, I stared to have problems with my health and my pediatrician recommended that I go for an “intake” at Overlook Hospital’s Goryeb Children & Adolescents Eating Disorder Program. My doctor immediately set me up to talk to a therapist. This was the first time anyone had every referred to my eating disorder as anorexia, and I was taken by it. I couldn’t believe what this lady was telling me. I wasn’t going to join this stupid program. There was no way I was going to eat their food. They were not going to make me fat again. So, I refused to join. I went back to the same routine of eating less than 500 calories a day and burning twice that amount at 5:30 in the morning – every day.

One month later, I was admitted to the same hospital for an extremely low heart rate and other possible issues, such as organ failures. My body was turning against me, and it was shutting down. You would think that I would give in and cooperate, being attached to an I.V. and not allowed to leave my bed, but ED said we were going to fight. I didn’t want to eat anything they gave me. I cried and cried and cried, and I just wanted to go home, where I was safe. I left the hospital after 5 days, still refusing to join the program.

One week later, I could not take it anymore. I was tired. I was scared. I was depressed. I was alone. I finally gave in and decided to join the program. This was the best decision of my entire life. My therapists were my rocks throughout my treatment. But, ED still wouldn’t let me live and continued to fight with me. I wasn’t ready to lose my anorexia, [for] I felt special, like I was a member of an “exclusive club”. It took me months and months, even after I was done with Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program, to realize that this is not a club that I want to be part of.

Now, summer of 2016, I still have my struggles. I can occasionally hear ED’s voice in my head, telling me to restrict or trying to make me feel guilty after a meal out with my friends. But, I have learned to push those thoughts aside and keep on fighting. Recovering from anorexia is a battle I [will] continue to fight everyday. Sometimes I feel “fat” and other times I say I’m being too “reckless with my eating”. That isn’t Paige talking. That’s my eating disorder trying to fight its way back in. But, I refuse to let it. The greatest advice I was ever given was to “never forget to keep breathing”, and I follow those words every single day.

-Paige S.

4 thoughts on “Learning to Love Myself: Paige’s Story

  1. You are the sweetest, kindest, most beautiful young lady I have ever had the pleasure of teaching! Continue to believe in yourself and yes keep breathing!

    Like

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