This section of our Web site includes first-person stories of recovery, poems, and words of inspiration of, by, and for ANRED's visitors.
If you want to submit material for The Forum, e-mail it to us. We are looking for examples of successful problem solving and stories about how people took charge of their lives and overcame disordered eating. We know that misery, depression, discouragement, and other painful emotions accompany eating disorders. We don't believe, however, that we do anyone any good by putting up selections that brood and dwell on suffering without also suggesting a way out. That's a long-winded way of saying please don't send us material that speaks only of pain, hopelessness, and despair. That's only part of the story.
All submissions become the property of ANRED and may be edited for clarity and brevity. To protect privacy, if we post your material, we will use only your initials. Members of the ANRED editorial board decide which articles, and how many of them, are appropriate for posting.
I really found your web site useful. I have been recovered from anorexia for ten years. What freedom! What I particularly like about your site is the focus on RECOVERY. So many sites go on and on about the 1001 ways to starve and purge. When I was sick, I read things and watched talk shows to get ideas about how to be more sick. That was not helpful.
There is a fine line with eating disorders. There's that sense of competition, and finding someone "sicker" just provided new avenues to self-destruction. I was so glad to see that you have a different focus. I think so much more emphasis needs to be put on getting better, not in publishing everyone's lists of destructive practices.
I liked your caution to the individual who was recovered and wanting to help others. I am also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, but I don't want to treat eating disorders! Not because I'm afraid of going back there -- God knows I never want to go through that hell again -- but I don't think having an eating disorder necessarily qualifies a person to treat eating disorders. And in the beginning stages of recovery, when I did try to "help" someone, I often found myself slipping. I thought your advice was excellent.
I do give educational presentations to school classes and community groups, but even in those I NEVER discuss my weight or symptoms. I simply let people know recovery can be done. I needed to hear that when I was going through the bad times. Thanks again.
- Life is so good now that I'm recovered!
I have been in recovery from anorexia and bulimia for 10 years now, and I am so glad to be a free, happy person. It took a lot of incredibly hard work to get where I am today, but looking back, it was all worth it.
Sometimes I feel like an entirely different person than I once was. I have turned into an interesting woman with hobbies, emotions and opinions. Before, my life was consumed with food or the lack of it. I did not have time or energy to think of much else. What a terrible way to live. If you think about it, it's not really living at all.
To recover, I sought much professional help and even submitted to quitting college and being hospitalized. I think in the end my disease completely demoralized me, which is the best thing that could have happened! After hospitalization, I continued with individual and group therapy for four years. I truly believe eating disorders must be addressed professionally.
I never thought it would be possible to live a life like I am living today, and I feel that somehow I have an obligation to pass this along to women who are struggling. If you are reading my story, please know that there is hope for you. Find the courage to contact professional help and then stick with it! The work is hard, but the results are worth it. Best wishes to all of you.
- I'm winning the battle!
Tears stream down my face as I recall how much I've suffered these past few years and how much strength it has taken to make my way to the other side. It has been an uphill battle filled with pain, tears, and countless detours. Over the years, I've gained strength, intuition, and the skills necessary to battle this inner demon. I'm finally beginning to achieve freedom from this disorder, but it has been a long and painful journey.
Four years ago, I turned to starvation and purging to fill a huge void in myself. I was in the seventh grade, and I remember how terribly insecure and unhappy I was. I hated the curves that were forming on my body and perceived myself as grossly overweight. In retrospect, I was at a completely healthy weight for my height. I was focusing on my weight and controlling my food intake in order to avoid the unhappiness and insecurity I was really feeling.
After months of severe starvation and purging, I lost a significant amount of weight. My health, both physical and mental, plummeted rapidly. All of a sudden people began commenting on how sickly, pale, and thin I had become. My parents discovered my secret,. They panicked, and took me to my pediatrician for a check up.
I was ordered to come in for weekly weigh-ins and threatened with hospitalization if my weight continued to drop. Over the next few weeks, I did continue to lose weight. I was truly at death's door. Everyone around me was scared, and I felt lost. My pediatrician, aware of the danger I was in, referred me to an eating disorder specialist .
I was in horrible shape. I had absolutely no color in my face and resembled a ghost. My skin had turned a bizarre yellowish-purple color. My teeth were yellow and rotten from the acid that shot up into my mouth during daily purges. I shook uncontrollably from malnutrition. My hair was falling out in handfuls, and I wasn't thinking clearly.
After only a few weeks, the specialist admitted me to the hospital. I was scared, and I will never, ever
forget the look of horror and pain in my parents eyes as security guards and EMTs escorted me to the emergency room. Nor will I forget the IVs, the seven long, awful days on a medical floor; the anorexia nervosa protocol; countless hours of crying; the heart monitor going off in the wee hours of the night as my heart rate dropped into the danger zone; the doctors, who didn't know if I'd pull through; and the feeding tube that was inserted down my nose as I fought with all my might to remove it. And then there was my suffering and the fear and horror of my family and friends.
It has been four long years since my first hospitalization. Since then, I have been rehospitalized several times as I struggled to conquer a disease that took over my body and my life. It has been an incredibly long road filled with many, many ups and downs, victories and relapses, shattered relationships, and finally hope and triumph. I have been out of the hospital four months now, and for the first time in my life I feel alive and well. I am eating healthily and not purging, but more importantly I am learning to love the person I am. Each day is still a struggle, but I am finally fighting this battle with all the strength that I have.
I have dreams and ambitions that are beginning to mean more to me than the numbers on my scale. I am surrounded by people who love me for who I am and who want me to succeed. This horrible illness has shattered my life in so many ways, but I am putting it back together one piece, one baby step at a time. With the help of my doctors, therapist, nutritionist, friends, and family, I am starting to see the light that has been waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. I am setting myself free, learning from the past, and looking to the future. The hopelessness I once felt has slowly faded away, replaced by my newly found strength, passion, and will to live.
- Recovery really is possible!
Hi there! I was treated for an eating disorder in 1987. I was a senior in high school at the time. The program literally changed my life, and I want to encourage everyone who wants to recover to get into treatment and stay there until you see results.
I remember going through a time when I thought the eating disorder would never be completely over. I thought I might gain control over it, but I believed there would never be a day when I didn't think about food. I also believed the guilt would never completely disappear when I ate something I didn't think I should.
I am happy to say that ten years later I NEVER think about food! I look at food like any normal person -- I need it to survive. Period.
In fact, I laugh to myself every time I eat anything sweet -- kind of like saying Ha ha, see what I can do! -- and I don't even worry about the calories!
When you are going through an eating disorder, you can't even imagine feeling at peace with food. It takes a long time but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have three sons now -- six, two, and nine months. I have so many reasons to live and cherish life I can't even count them all. It is so awful to see other people going through an eating disorder and to remember being so obsessed with every meal. It took so much energy and was so exhausting. Even thinking about it now is tiring!
Best wishes to everyone who reads this. I'm rooting for you!
- Buyer beware!
Please advise your readers that a number of herbal products contain stimulant herbal laxatives disguised as diet teas, etc.
Recently, the California FDA passed an emergency regulation about these products. Further, the FDA concluded after their investigation that these products are potentially harmful.
I know these products are dangerous because my wife and a number of other young and otherwise healthy women died after using them for prolonged periods of time. Unlike properly labeled laxatives, these products were sold, and continue to be sold, as all natural, safe foods despite the fact that tests show their laxative levels exceed many over-the-counter laxatives.
Unfortunately, the people who died had no idea that what they were taking was anything other than a safe product.
A grieving husband
- For my beloved wife
I am the husband of a lovely woman who is addicted to the exercise bike. She is a very beautiful woman, smart and well-educated. She rationalizes every bit of exercise she does, and it is never too much. It controls our lives, but she doesn't see it.
She will not eat any fat in her diet and only tiny bits of protein. She spends about one and a half hours on the bike each and every day -- more if I don't say something to her. If she cannot exercise, she cuts down on her food and eats even less than usual. She equates her self worth with how she looks and the job she has.
I have tried to be supportive. I tell her my love is not based on her weight or her paycheck but on who she is and what she brings to our relationship. Nothing I do seems to make a difference. I am tired of having to talk to my wife over the roar of the exercise bike. I don't want to hear another irrational excuse for her staying the way she is.
I have seen pictures of her at a heavier weight, and to me she was beautiful. I have told her this, but my words fall on deaf ears that listen only to what the warped little voice in her head tells her about what she needs to be appreciated and of value to herself and others.
I am in this relationship till death do us part because that is what I promised I would do. She got your address from a women's magazine, but that is as far as she has gotten to doing anything about her problem. I have printed out some of your web pages in hopes she will read them and take them to heart.
My love for my wife grows stronger each day; I just can't be the strength for us both. I want to fight this, but it is a battle inside her, and I can only help pick her up when she falls. I can tell her I am here for her, but the battle is hers to fight. I desperately hope she will turn and confront the monster that controls her, telling it she will obey it no more. I write this for my wife, I LOVE YOU L-------, MY DARLING!!!
Your devoted husband
- For my beloved wife -- an update. Three months later
This is an update to the story of my wife's addiction to the exercise bike. You all will be as glad, as I am to know she has sought help with her disorder. She has begun a 90-day inpatient program to help her deal with the problem. It was the hardest step I think she has ever had to take, but it is definitely in the right direction.
She has been gone now for just over a week, and she has gone through many changes already, some physical but most mental. She now knows she had completely lost control and needs to get it back. She knows (as do I) that there is still a long road ahead of her, but she is on the right road and going in the right direction.
The best part of this process is that she is finally opening up and sharing her inner self with me. She talks of fears and desires, and I feel very proud and privileged to have her open up to me in this way. I can not even begin to express my awe. I had a strong love for my wife before she began this process, and it grows with every step she takes.
I know there are going to be days of pure hell in the coming months, but it will be worth the pain and tears to have my wife back with me, sharing all the good and bad that is laid before us as we go through life together. I will keep you posted as this time passes. My heart is with you, L.
- Who I Am
It makes me feel like I have control,
Yet in actuality, it has complete control over me.
It's something I feel I must do.
I'm sorry if you cannot relate,
But don't try to understand it,
Because you never will.
Why can't you see what it does for me?
It makes me pretty.
It makes me happy.
"If you're so happy, then why are you crying?" you ask.
I told you, don't ask for explanations,
Because I can't explain.
I need it in order to be me.
It's who I am.
I don't think I can change.
So if you will, please don't ask me to change.
Let me handle my life the only way I know how.
Written January 6, 1997
- I tried to help my friend, but she died.
Well, it has been a little while now, and the loss no longer saddens me to the point of hopeless tears. I suppose, though, that my deep grief for my friend was needed as much as our times of overwhelming giggles -- it's what helps us keep the balance.
I've always believed that hard times are valuable lessons, maybe even more valuable than good times. Now I must step aside and see what I learned from this loss.
It is hard to decide just how much energy to expend on people who do not want to be recipients of my caring. Harder still to walk away and leave them to their own devices. Yet, I do know that someone who does not want help cannot be helped. I guess that's what made my friend's death all that much harder to bear.
She did want help, and she was getting better. It wasn't just a question of the illness winning. I think she decided to recover too late for her body to recover from all the damage she caused by starving. She was past the point of no return.
This whole sad experience has brought back my own struggles with an eating disorder. Even though I'm strong in recovery, when my friend died, I brooded over the questions, "Why not me?" and "What purpose do I still have here."
Why am I still alive while others don't make it? Is it just because I am stubborn or lucky? Or is something deeper going on? I don't know, and I probably never will know, but I like to think it's because there is still something I need to accomplish here. Something that needs to be shared, said, or done.
Now, it's time to pick up the pieces and figure out where I need to go and what I need to do. Thanks for letting me speak my piece.
- A letter to my friend Jennifer, who is too thin
Yesterday you asked me why I haven't called you lately. You said you feel that I don't want to hang out with you anymore. You wondered if I'm angry at you.
Yes, I'm kind of angry, but even more than that, I'm scared. I'm scared that you are going to die or end up in a hospital or psych unit. Even if you don't die, maybe you will do something to yourself that can't be fixed. That's why I'm scared.
To be honest, I don't want to be around you because you're not the Jennifer I used to know. Jenn has disappeared, replaced by someone who is a fake and a poor substitute. I used to be able to talk to my friend Jennifer about anything and everything. She considered my ideas and then responded thoughtfully, even to my off-the-wall wacko ideas. This counterfeit person is rigid, defensive and blindfolded. She won't open her eyes and see what is obvious to everyone else, especially to us who love her.
I'm beginning to despair of ever getting you back. You are slipping farther and farther away, and it seems I can't do anything to stop your slide into destruction. I even talked to a counselor and asked how I can help you. She said I can't do anything except encourage you to get help, that if you change it will be because you realize you are in a trap and decide to ask for help getting out. That's hard for me to accept, but I guess I have to. For sure, nothing I've said or done these past months has had any impact on you.
You are right about one thing, I don't want to spend much time with you anymore. It's just too painful for me to watch the counterfeit Jennifer insist on crippling your mind and body by refusing to eat. And all you ever talk about anymore is food and your weight. That's boring, and it triggers my own doubts about my body and appearance.
You don’t have to do this to yourself. I hate what this disorder has done to you, and I hate the fake Jennifer for replacing my kind, smart, wise, thoughtful and witty friend with a sad, withdrawn and depressed mental case. I want the old Jenn back, but I don't think you can reclaim her by yourself. If I still have any influence with you at all, please think about getting help to evict your cruel replacement.
This is killing me, Jennifer, and you know why? Because it’s killing you.
- I thought I had to be perfect
Where did so many of us get that notion?
Did we get it from parents who hoped we would make up
for all the empty spaces in their own lives?
From teachers who took for granted everything we did right
and focused on our every mistake?
From religious leaders who told us the story
of how Adam and Eve broke one rule
and were punished forever?
Do women get that message of perfection
from movies and fashion ads,
from actresses and models
with figures they can't hope to match?
Do men get it from relentless pressure to sell more,
to earn more,
and a society that makes fun of the losers in the Super Bowl
for being only the second best football team in the world?
How good do we have to be?
by Harold Kushner
September 8, 1996
- Never Give Up!
I've been recovering from anorexia for about eight months, and now I can say that I have reached the final stage. No longer do I waste so much of my energy scribbling down calorie sums and pushing my body to exercise when it has nothing to fuel it.
During my disorder I lost approximately a third of my body weight, but luckily it appears to have caused no long term damage. That's not to say that anorexia won't. What helped me recover was shocking information I discovered about possible damage. Somewhere, deep inside me, was the tiniest little will to survive that I had buried away for so long. I grasped onto it and found strength to ignore the screeching voice of my so-called "best friend" -- anorexia nervosa.
There is hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have an eating disorder you have to realize that the media present such a false world, and there is no point in trying to live up to the unreasonable and unhealthy demands to be ridiculously thin. If you feel thinness is about being attractive to the opposite sex, remember that no man likes to see bones. If you feel it's about health, remember that you are probably far below a normal healthy weight range.
If you're anorexic, you're hurting all the people that love you. Throughout my 18 years on this planet I have never seen my mother cry her heart out the way she did when I was anorexic, nor have I seen such a worried and terrified look in my father's eyes. When people stared, I thought it was because they thought I was pretty. It was actually because they were horrified at what they saw.
Anorexia won't gain you popularity. I lost touch with so many of my school friends because my emaciated appearance scared them to death, and I avoided them, clinging desperately to my boyfriend who was finding me less and less attractive. Now that I've regained all my lovely womanly curves, my boyfriend adores me again, and my friends are no longer scared of me -- they love for me to be around because recovering has given me a determined attitude to damn well enjoy myself!
But not only has my appearance improved, so has my health. My hair no longer falls out; the dizzy spells have stopped completely, and I have tremendous energy to do whatever I please. Luckily, all this has happened just before my final exams, so I'm ready as I'll ever be.
Never give up! Life is for living, and you only get one chance. Don't waste it by succumbing to this terrible disease. You can overcome it. If I can, anyone can.
- The Masquerade
My name is KR. I'm thirteen years old and in the eighth grade. When I was eleven, I compulsively exercised and dieted to lose weight. At twelve I was checked into an eating disorders clinic at seventy percent of my healthy body weight. Those three weeks of my seventh grade school year changed my life incredibly, and now, looking back on my life, after I have made a full recovery, I wouldn't have it any other way.
The hardest thing for me today is seeing other people go through what I did and knowing that they don't understand the secret of recovery. It seems so simple for regular people to pick up a fork with a decent amount of food on it and then eat it. They so easily smile and sing and dance with the whole body, not just the outside. That is so special to me because I was trapped in nothingness, and it seemed to be everything there was. I know what it's like to yell at my hands, to grab the fork, to watch my hands just sit there -- cold, tense, and still.
How do you save people from the masquerade of happiness they present to others? You can't. All you can do is open your arms to them and raise awareness. But isn't that better than nothing? Yes, it is!
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me.
Strange as it may feel to you, just listen.
All that I asked was that you listen -- not talk or do -- just hear me. Advice is cheap. A few coins will get you Dear Abby and other experts, all in the same newspaper, everyday.
I can do for myself. I am not helpless -- maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.
When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and feelings of inadequacy. But when you accept as simple fact that I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince you and get about the business of understanding what's behind these irrational feelings. And when that's clear, the answers become obvious and advice is superfluous.
Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what's behind them. That's why prayer works sometimes, for some people -- because God is mute. He doesn't give advice or try to fix things. He just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.
So please, just listen and hear me. Then if you want to talk too, wait a minute for your turn, and I'll listen to you.
Original source unknown
|Please Note: ANRED information is not a substitute for medical or psychological evaluation and treatment. For help with the physical and emotional problems associated with eating disorders, talk to your physician and a mental health professional.|