Alright guys. So I have decided to write out my eating disorder story in full. Well, mostly full. It’s a summary, and it leaves out a lot of the gruesome parts, but I have wanted to publish it for some time and I feel finally courageous and strong enough to do so. I hope someone out there will be able to relate, and seek RECOVERY. Any questions, do not hesitate to comment.
When I was a young kid, probably up until I was ten, I was an extremely picky eater. Cake and ice cream couldn’t touch each other. Only ketchup on hamburgers, no hot dogs. Salad was disgusting. Chinese food meant three chicken balls with that thick red sauce. At Thanksgiving, all I wanted was a dinner roll and mashed potatoes.
When I was eleven I developed an allergy to dairy. That meant no more ice cream, chocolate, cheese, cake, breads, etc. This was around the time that the idea first popped into my head; I was fat.
Except, I wasn’t.
At age eleven, I was quite a normal weight for my age. But as I grew into middle school, became more perfectionistic, and started competing as an actress with a teacher who constantly put me down, I thought weight loss would solve all my problems.
I became obsessed with the idea of controlling my weight at the age of thirteen. I started standing on the scale five times each day, measuring parts of my body constantly. I thought that I could be perfect in every area of my life besides my looks. I wore clothes that I hated and focused on my grades and listening to my acting teacher. I could perfect my brain, I thought. All the while, the back of my head called, Yeah. But you’re fat.
I began researching every diet and workout on the market, and started trying them. I became the world’s best calorie counter. I spent hours calculating the calories in what other people ate. I spent hours calculating the calories in foods I had never even laid eyes on, like cooked duck.
I was perfect at calorie counting.
The more obsessed I became with calorie counting, the less I felt I had to focus on the mean words of my acting teacher and some peers. The less I felt I had to focus on my dairy allergy, which at the time felt like the diet of a “fat girl.” Thoughts of food swirled in my mind all the time.
And what we think, we become.
I was in eighth grade the first time I binged. I couldn’t sleep, and so I tiptoed to the kitchen at probably two in the morning. I remember this binge too well. I couldn’t understand what I was doing. I pulled a loaf of white bread out of the freezer. I opened it and I ate a piece in almost one bite, and then another. I toasted two more, and whilst I waited, I grabbed a jar of mayo.
I hated, and still hate, mayo.
I ate a spoonful of it plain, and then mixed it with mustard. I ate a bowl of cereal, some granola bars, and a large handful of dark chocolates. Peanut butter, more toast, pasta, marshmallows, crackers…
I ate until it hurt. I ate until I was breathing heavily.
The guilt after that first binge when I crawled into bed that night was unbearable, the worst personal pain I have ever experienced in my lifetime. I spent a long time frantically scribbling down numbers, trying to figure out how many calories I’d just consumed.
I had failed. I couldn’t figure it out, because I hadn’t measured anything.
Tomorrow, I told myself, I will measure everything I eat.
I couldn’t bear the thought of school the next day, but something hit me. No one needed to know that I had spent the last night eating.
I wasn’t, in fact, perfect, but I could come across that way.
I went to school and smiled and pretended nothing was wrong, pretended that I wasn’t still trying to figure out how many calories went into that binge.
I don’t remember many of my other night eating episodes quite so vividly as that first one, but they continued about three or four times weekly for the next year and a half or so. It wasn’t until toward the end of ninth grade that I told my mom about my night eating. I broke down when I told her. “I’m just fat,” I sobbed, “This is what fat people do.”
My mom and I bought some books on Night Eating Syndrome. I was so embarrassed by the title of the condition. It was an eating disorder, my doctor said, the result of feeling out of control and seeking perfectionism, just like any other eating disorder. To me, it seemed like the Fat Person’s Disorder.
That summer, between Grade Nine and Ten, and I started seeing a therapist, who I attribute very much to saving my life. The beginning of the summer was difficult. I went up to my best friend’s cottage and binged both nights that I was there. I remember eating two family sized bags of Lays with a mixture of seafood sauce, mayo, and chicken. It was disgusting.
Ladies and gentleman. Eating three chocolate chip cookies as a snack after school is not a binge. A second helping of dessert is not a binge. A binge is not enjoyable. A binge is an out of control mess that occurs in a small period of time in which the food is neither tasted nor enjoyed. It is a numbing experience, a coping mechanism that is the result of a terrible neurological disorder.
My therapist continued to try to get through to me. I worked so hard in those sessions, and by the start of second semester of grade ten, I’d lost ten pounds at a steady pace and as a healthy result of my binge episodes becoming fewer and fewer. I went the entire month of January with no binging and few food thoughts, and was discharged from therapy.
Mid-February, I heard another eating disorder voice. A voice that sought new numbness. A voice that missed the coping mechanisms. A voice that fought to take me and won. This voice made me binge again and this time this voice was much meaner. He made me purge. He made me stick toothbrushes down my throat, or try to eat ten olives (least favourite food of all time), or whatever else possible until I could be sure that every part of the binge was out of my system. I binge-purged four times over the next two months.
In April, I heard yet another voice. Unlike the voices of the previous two eating disorders, this one was kind to me. It encouraged me. It made me feel strong. It told me that binging was a sign of weakness. Why make people think you’re perfect when you could actually be perfect?
I didn’t eat or drink for three days. And anorexia’s voice had been inside me for some time, she was just looking for a way straight in. As I lost strength and nourishment, she grew stronger. Soon, the very idea of chewing food was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine eating more than a few tiny bites of food each day. I avoided social outings at all costs and spent most of my time sleeping, too dizzy and faint to even walk around. My hair started falling out in chunks, and I lost seventy pounds in four months.
I also lost four months of my life, and every ounce of Cassie.
My loved ones who were with me at that time could tell you about my zombie personality. I was not a person. I could not engage in conversation. I could not laugh for real. I couldn’t smile, not really. I drank black coffee and couldn’t swim because I was too cold and ate spinach.
I had been seeing a doctor about the disorders for years but was not officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa until May 31st, 2013. Exactly one month later, on July 31st, before my sister’s and I headed to a Justin Bieber concert, my doctor told me I was dying.
“Especially with the history of eating disorders, your body is freaking out. It is so confused,” he said. At first, he refused for me to go to the concert. I begged and pleaded, and he finally agreed. First, I had to go to the hospital for an IV, and I had to remain in a wheel chair for the concert.
“Do you want to get better, Cassie?” He asked.
I nodded, sobbing. I didn’t know how. For years I didn’t know how to stop eating, and now I didn’t know how to eat.
“Then eat today. Eat something new. Take a bigger bite. Do something. You’ll start at the clinic next week. Cassie, you can do this.”
Before the concert, my sisters ate Subway. I ate 6 green beans from a small container and drank a zero calorie Gatorade. My sisters finished their subs before I finished the beans, crying.
The concert was incredible. I watched as the fans around me jumped up and down in their seats, and Krystal held my arm down so I’d stay seated. I told myself that I wanted to live. I felt my pulse, felt it working very hard with such little nourishment to keep me alive.
The next day, I sat with my mom in the family room and cried, so intensely that it shook me. In that moment, the idea of eating was so terrifying I decided I’d rather die. My mom, unknowing of what to do, called the clinic and asked if there was anything they could do for me immediately. She spoke with the woman who would soon be my nurse while I cried and cried. A while later, my mom hung up the phone, held me in her arms, and told me that she was going to start feeding me, that day. That soon, that was what I’d be doing at the clinic, but that the nurse had explained to her how to start right away.
I screamed. I cried. I refused. I hid in my bedroom for hours and at dinnertime, my mom called me down to the kitchen with the rest of my family. In front of my usual chair was a plate of breaded chicken strips, a potato, and steamed veggies. It was a “normal” sized plate, but I remember looking at it with an amount of anger that repulsed me. I screamed, “No one eats like this! No one eats this much!” I panicked and crunched into a ball on the floor.
My older sister came to me and said, “Cassie, you see the rest of us and your friends eat dinner all the time and think it’s normal.”
I couldn’t explain why it was normal for my sisters to have that plate of dinner—more, even—but not me.
I finally gathered the courage to sit and brave the plate in front of me. I finished about half of it in over an hour, and couldn’t go on, sure I would vomit. The pain in my stomach was unbearable, and I spent the rest of the night with a hot water bottle over it.
The next few days were very similar. In the span of a week, I went from eating maybe 400 calories per day to 1200 before I went for my first appointment at the clinic.
After a long while, my mom and I got my calories up to around 1800-2200 per day. This was not nearly enough to repair the damage anorexia had done. I spent the next year at war with my family, doctors, therapists, food, and self. I did everything in my power to avoid food, and grew angrier and angrier with the specialists who appeared to be fighting me.
A year later, with no weight gained and still averaging about 2000 calories per day, my mom and I removed me from the program at the clinic without discharge. I needed to try something else.
I suggested calling my old therapist, the woman who had helped me with BED, and we did. I began seeing her regularly again, and, rather than talking about my weight and how my eating habits were going and how horrible I had treated myself, we talked about the other things going on in my life, my past, and my need for control.
As time went on, I became truly motivated to recover. I spent hours researching recovery methods and finally decided to give Minnie Maud a try (youreatopia.com). I FINALLY began eating the proper amount of food, and well above it, eating whatever I pleased and as often as possible. I smiled and laughed for real again. I rediscovered myself. And I was doing it all without prompt.
I gained weight naturally and then stopped gaining.
Since that period, I have lapsed multiple times, losing and gaining the same ~15 pounds, fearing and then embracing food, hating and then loving recovery and life.
I have such a ways to go, but I am growing every day. And every day I fight to help others who live with mental illnesses that threaten to take over our happiness.