76: Recovery Is Beautiful

76: Recovery Is Beautiful

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Recovery Is Beautiful

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

~Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha

“We will have to admit you to the hospital,” the team of psychologists, doctors, and dieticians stated as a yellow bracelet was wrapped around my frail wrist. “Your health is not stable enough to go home and you are experiencing serious side effects of malnutrition.”

It had started with a diet. I hated myself and the word “FAT” ran through my head every minute of every day. I was thirteen years old, and weighed 115 pounds at 5’3.” Over the next eight months of eighth grade, I gradually ate less and less to the point where I was eating next to nothing. I obsessed over food because it was the one thing I had complete control of in my life. For some reason, skipping meals and throwing out school lunches made me feel powerful.

I was obsessed. Nothing else in the world mattered other than being skinny. I’d strip down and sneak into my parents’ bathroom for a peak at the scale, sometimes forty times a day. If the numbers went up, I’d scream and cry to the point of hysteria. I’d jump on the scale as hard as I could. I’d throw it across the room. I wanted nothing more than to run twenty kilometers, then bike off another 4,000 calories. If the numbers went down, it still wasn’t good enough, and I wouldn’t eat anything—not even water or gum. I refused to lick postage stamps or take pills—they would all make me fat.

Unless I could see prominent veins in my arms, I was too fat. I was only satisfied with myself when there was a deep hole in the pool of my collarbone. I’d catch myself lying down flat on my back to see how sunken my stomach was compared to my hipbones. If I couldn’t see all six ribs, I wasn’t skinny enough.

Everyone wanted to help me but it only made me angrier. I had put up a wall and isolated myself from everyone who cared. “Smart move,” my dad screamed with tears welling up in his eyes, “killing yourself at thirteen.” I didn’t understand what everyone saw. All I saw in the mirror were rolls and rolls of fat. I was too fat to deserve any help.

I started seeing a psychotherapist who told my parents that their job was to feed their child—just like feeding a newborn. Still, I wouldn’t swallow. One bite would ruin everything. A lady in the emergency room at the children’s hospital asked me why I was so thin, rather bluntly, almost casually telling me that I was going to die if I kept eating the way I was. Yeah right, I thought. Anorexia only existed in stories meant to scare people. If I had anorexia, I’d know it.

I felt constant hunger pangs, and the sensation of emptiness manipulated me into skipping more and more meals, challenging my body to go past different stages of fatigue. When I felt hungry, I felt drugged. No previous success felt as good to me as this weight loss and I was addicted to the feeling. All happiness slipped away and my whole being was devoted to losing another pound. I would look in the mirror and say to myself, “Okay. You look better. Don’t eat or else you’ll ruin it.”

I wanted to get my life back and become the happy girl I’d once been. A small bit of Megan was still there—not yet demolished—and she wanted to see her life transformed. But the demon inside me said, “You don’t know how. What’s the use?” I felt like I was stuck in a box with the lid pulled down tight, shutting myself in my own misery. This eating disorder was eating away at my brain to the point where being healthy didn’t matter.

Finally, everything caught up to me. I felt like I was dying. I couldn’t drag my body another step. My heart was racing, I was hallucinating the scent of foods, my hair was falling out in wads, my chest ached, and I could hardly breathe. Every time I stood up, my world went completely white and I was so scared. But I couldn’t even cry because I was so dehydrated that my eyes would burn and no tears would come. I ended up in the hospital, this time for a while.

Anorexia is like a drug addiction. You don’t believe you actually have it until it’s almost too late. There’s a constant battle between you and the voice telling you not to eat. For too long, that voice always won.

I weighed just eighty-eight pounds. When my heart rate and blood pressure were assessed, the nurse’s mouth dropped. After that, I was no longer allowed to walk. There was too much risk of a heart attack or seizure. I was hooked up to a heart monitor and IV. Nurses brought me four meal supplements a day, but I still thought I was fat, so I poured them down the drain. I was making myself sicker and sicker. Patients surrounding me were facing cancer and epilepsy, while I was suffering from something I did to myself. I felt selfish and guilty.

Two weeks into my stay, the doctors decided I needed more acute care in an eating disorder program. I thought it was the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me. They wanted to take away everything that I’d worked so hard for. There were endless trays of food and I had no choice but to clear them all.

It was in the hospital, fighting anorexia with five other girls when I learned the true meaning of friendship. Those girls understood exactly what I was going through and we worked through every meal together. The laughs, the tears, the highs and lows—we went through every state together. They are the best friends in the entire world and I couldn’t have ever gotten better without them. We inspired each other, held hands, and fought back against one of the most powerful mental illnesses affecting teenage girls in society.

Looking back on it, things started to change the moment I stopped eating because I had to, and started eating for myself. Things got much easier when I came to the realization that no one was trying to ruin my life—they were trying to save it. Everyone was cheering me in my race to beat the eating disorder, but the essential first step of recovery was to accept it. I had to want to get better.

It was the hardest two and a half months of my life, but I did it. I worked very hard to get my life back. All of my friends and family were waiting for the happier and healthier me to return, and they supported me on the rollercoaster ride of recovery. I know that they’ll always love me and accept me no matter what shape or size I am. They will never judge me, and they’ll always be by my side during hard times. I’m no longer afraid to let them in.

The success of beating this thing sends shivers down my spine and makes me feel like dancing and letting the whole world know what I’ve accomplished. When I look in the mirror I can say that I am a strong and inspiring person to those around me. That’s when I feel beautiful.

~Megan Carty

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