18. Feeling Full

18. Feeling Full

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Inner Strength

Feeling Full

Recovery is remembering who you are and using your strengths to become all that you were meant to be.

~Recovery Innovations

Anxious, obsessive compulsive, and anorexic — had you asked me months ago, I would have told you I was all three. I don’t know why then it came as such a shock when the doctor stated I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital that morning.

I recognized that I had a problem. But when a medical professional looked at me and said, “You’re an anorexic. Your heart, in fact your whole body, is going into failure. You could die,” it all suddenly became very real. That diagnosis meant that I couldn’t run from it anymore.

I had admitted to my parents that I was suffering from an eating disorder towards the end of tenth grade. What had started as a desire to improve my health rapidly snowballed into a drastically unhealthy change in habits and alarming weight loss. I limited my caloric intake to about 800 calories a day and exercised up to four hours a day. I was consumed with thoughts about my body and how to maintain the “perfect” and completely unattainable goal I had in my mind.

All of this left me with intense emotional distress, physical damage, and a 101-pound devastated body. I had withdrawn and disconnected from my social life. I felt completely hollow and starved of everything in life. I was dying, inside and out.

At the beginning of the summer, after having told the truth about my struggle, my parents immediately did all that they could to help. Sadly, the reality of the matter was that help would be months away. I was put on a waiting list for an eating disorders recovery program, so we were left to face my anorexia as best as we could on our own. Though I still failed to consume an appropriate amount, I did will myself to eat more. And although the constant thoughts of exercise prevented me from concentrating, I did cut my workouts in half. Summer was an uphill battle, but come the end of July, my saving grace was just around the corner.

Camp Kintail was a Presbyterian summer camp near Goderich, Ontario, right off Lake Huron, and also known as my home away from home. That summer was my fifth year at camp, and one of my most profound. Kintail had always been my sanctuary. It was the one place that I could truly be my open and honest self. Every summer, I was graced with beautiful people, scenery, and opportunities to grow as an individual. As a result, I learned that no matter what life threw at me, I could be sure that my time at Kintail could get me through it. That summer I was to spend a month in their leadership program, which ultimately saved my life.

It was my intent to reveal my issue once I got to camp. However, that proved more difficult than I had anticipated. While I had many friends at camp, I felt we’d grown apart. Though I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to share my problem. Three days passed and I hadn’t told a soul. Then one morning in the lodge, for no reason other than a gut feeling, I approached one of my fellow leaders in training. I knew little more than her name.

“Hayley, can I talk to you?”

Within minutes, tears were pouring down my face as I choked out the truth. To my surprise, she began crying too. She patiently listened to me as I expressed how I felt, but she already knew. When I finished, she looked me in the eyes and said, “One year ago, I was exactly where you are now.” Hayley explained that she had overcome her eating disorder the prior summer and firmly believed camp had saved her life. I honestly believe in that very moment she saved mine.

For the rest of camp, Hayley was like my guardian angel. No matter how stressful things got or how difficult I became, she did everything in her power to keep me happy, safe, eating, and feeling supported.

Going home was the hard part, because it meant tests and evaluations, and then waiting until late October for my meeting for the recovery program. But on the third day of school, my stepmom told me that my evaluation had been bumped up. “They saw the result of your preliminary ECG, and they’re concerned. They want to see you tomorrow.”

With this urgent evaluation came the possibility of admittance into the hospital. It’s funny how the world works, because that morning, Hayley (whom I hadn’t talked to since camp) contacted me and asked how I was doing. I told her the truth, and she did the same with me. “This is when you have to get better. You’re slowly committing suicide. Think about how much you have ahead of you.” I honoured her words.

I went to my appointment that morning wearing my kilt and collared top, my hair done, my make-up on. I thought I would be going to school that afternoon. But there I was, sitting in that box of a room, the doctor’s words still ringing in my ears. I would not go home for a month.

For quite some time, I blamed myself for this — for the inability to just eat a piece of cake or skip a run. People had reacted strongly upon discovering my illness: “I thought you were smarter than that” and “You’ve just got to eat.” These responses only furthered my self-hatred, and I believed them. Until I started hearing the response from people uncovering the truth: “It’s a disease.”

It took a lot for me to finally understand that it is a disease. Lying in my hospital bed, devastated and sobbing, I recalled apologizing to my parents for all of the stress I had caused and that I couldn’t just be better. They would have none of that. “Would you just tell a cancer patient to get better?” No, I suppose you wouldn’t. Thinking that over, I finally accepted that I was sick, and not by my doing. However, getting better would be through my own doing.

My month in that hospital was hands down the hardest month of my life, but I got through it. And I still continue to recover from my disorder. Some days I feel unstoppable, and some days I feel stopped dead in my tracks. Each day, however, I continue to heal and recover, because I have an infinite will to do so.

“I eat. I’m still anorexic.”

A friend recovering from her disorder once told me that. It’s a statement that explains a lot and holds much truth. I eat, but I still struggle. I’m still ill, and I’m still a long way from being completely better, but that’s okay.

It’s okay because I have people like Hayley in my life, an incredibly supportive and understanding family, places like Kintail, and a strong drive to recover.

With all of that in mind, I know I’m finally on my way to feeling full again.

~Samantha Molinaro

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