Saturday, June 28, 2014

LIFE AFTER ANOREXIA...I was one of the lucky ones.

Some of you may remember the story of Karen Carpenter and her eating disorder that originated in the 1970s and finally ended in 1983, very tragically.  Her disorder began in the throes of stardom, in reaction (among other things) to comments in the press that she was overweight, chunky.  What started as a 'diet' became the compulsive and unhealthy focus on food, calories, and starvation that would ultimately lead to her death.  Because of her high-profile status, her illness and attempts at rehabilitation shed light on something that I was living (unbeknownst to me) at the same time. 

I was a high school senior at an all-girls' school in the spring of 1975.  I remember it like it was yesterday!  I had a lunchtime ritual, which would keep me isolated and, more importantly, away from the school cafeteria. I did NOT want to draw attention to the handful of lettuce I would nibble on for 30 minutes.  (Total:  5 calories during the middle of the day.)  It was much easier to sit outside, under the flagpole, and work trig problems or read.  One day, I brought my new Seventeen Magazine to peruse.  I stumbled upon an article about anorexia nervosa.  I had never heard the terminology...but I understood that article because I WAS LIVING IT. 

The article sounded like it was about ME.  It spoke of a teenaged girl, a compliant perfectionist, not particularly attractive, valedictorian of her high school, excellent athlete, very active in extracurricular activities, a loving daughter...who was starving herself.  She felt like her life was spinning out of control, but there was one thing she could control!  No one could force her to eat.  She lived on little more than the 'high' she got as she watched and measured every ounce of normal, necessary body fat disappear.  I began at a normal 135 pounds, and 3-1/2 years in, I bottomed out at 94 pounds on a 5'5-1/2" falling out, kidneys failing (but thank God, heart still pumping.)  I shiver to think of my fate, had I not found that magazine article, and had I not had friends who rallied around me with encouragement and compassion.

I had a very small core group of friends who had known me for 10 years at that point.  I showed them the article.  They were shocked, as was I, to read my story in print.  They came up with a plan and, before I knew it, I was in self-help rehab!  We had a senior trip planned in a few months.  I needed to gain 10 pounds before then.  Each of them, in turn, wanted to lose a little weight.  They would gingerly walk me into the cafeteria each day at noon and proceed to trade their mashed potatoes for my salad, filling my plate with higher-calorie and healthy foods as they feasted on my low-cal favorites.  If I ate the appropriate portions, they rewarded me with a chocolate milk shake...and a lot of pride and praise from my friends, who were actually helping to save my life.  

There is so much more I could share.  I would love to personally thank the writer of that article.  I would love to hug each of my friends and acknowledge their bravery and dedication in starting my healing journey.  I opted for a more comfortable approach, to write a song that would:

  • explain the realities of anorexia to loved ones of sufferers; 
  • offer support and understanding to sufferers;
  • offer hope of recovery, that will probably span a lifetime!  One day at a time...
Please watch this song about my own struggle that I would later acknowledge as anorexia nervosa.  I recorded this myself (so the sound quality won't be that of my professionally done videos) and had my producer insert some pictures of me at different stages of my disorder and recovery.  I would love to know that my song brought attention to or simply explained the pain of this condition to people who are struggling, in some capacity, with the disease.   

Please please please forward this to anorexics and their loved ones, to fellow survivors, to guidance counselors, to teachers.  I want to do my part to enlighten, just like Seventeen Magazine did for me in spring of 1975.  

as always, until next blog, peace and love to you...dorothy