I stood in front of the mirror, my eyes could see her ribs sticking out and my cheeks digging in, but my brain never understood what anorexia nervosa was.
I had lost a lot of weight too fast. No one even noticed at first. It took over 100 lbs before my classmates started noticing.
I didn’t really mind. I figured one doesn’t notice weight loss like that when they see the person day after day.
But now, I knew I was skinny. Problem was, I just didn’t know how skinny I actually was.
I watched the other girls around her, on television or at school. I thought they were so tiny. I couldn’t be like them, I thought.
Then again, I am tall and some of my clothes came from the children’s section. I wasn’t stupid enough to believe this was normal for a 19-year-old.
So there I was, feeling my ribs with my fingernails and wondering what was going on with me.
I had lost my friends and more or less my entire life. I had no energy anymore.
All I could do was go to movies or sit at home during the mid-afternoon.
It was as if my brain would just check-out. A few times her professors even sent me home after taking just one look at me.
Every night I lay in bed hearing my mother cry. This was the hardest part. I knew I was scaring her and I knew I was sick but I didn’t understand the extent of my problem.
The same question occupied my mind every day: What the hell is a healthy weight?
So I was about 5 feet 8 inches, maybe 9 inches. What was I supposed to weigh? I felt like this was some sort of cruel game because every time I worked up the courage to ask one of my doctors or my mother, I would get some cryptic answer.
“It’s not weight that matters, it’s health.”
“Well it really depends on your bone structure and density.”
Other answers came and went as I asked the question. The only sure thing is that none of them were ever definite.
Still, when I reached 100 lbs, I had an inkling I had fallen to the underweight side of the chart.
To be honest, I didn’t care much. I wasn’t hungry so why should I eat? And I could fit into all the clothes I liked; all of them fit now. It would have been stupid to stop now, I thought.
There was one thing that made me feel even worse than my mother’s crying.
The fact that I knew, deep inside – even though I never really admitted it to myself – that I looked like a skeleton.
The one person I loved most in the world was my 7-year-old nephew but I knew if he saw me this way, he’d be scared.
For an entire year I kept with phone calls and emails but didn’t see him so that he wouldn’t have to suffer.
I hated herself for keeping us apart this way. I knew something was wrong with me but at the same time I couldn’t see what everyone else saw when they looked at me.
Against everyone’s warnings, I left for school outside of Montreal in the fall. I was rushed back to Montreal two months into the semester because I had passed out numerous times over the course of the last week.
I entered the hospital expecting the same speech I had heard so often before I had left for school. However, what awaited me was a total shock. I had slipped down to 70 lbs.
My doctors examined me and let my mother and I know that my system had stopped functioning in order to give all of its energy to my weak heart. My organs had basically committed suicide.
As though that wasn’t enough, they were told that because of this, I wasn’t expected to live through the week.
Only one doctor thought I would last another five days while the four others were thinking three days at most.
At the hospital they tried to take my blood pressure . nothing happened. They pushed the cold stethoscope against my bare chest so hard I thought it was going to break yet the doctors still couldn’t hear my heart beat.
Finally, they decided to get me an ultrasound. The same way doctors look at pregnant women’s unborn babies and are able to identify the tiniest details; this would be the only way to see my heart.
The test started and even with this high definition equipment the cardiologist had a hard time finding my heart, let alone seeing it beat.
Water had built up around my heart. Inches of it was pressing against the muscle, enclosing it, exhausting it, preventing it from beating . slowly killing me.
I could see the end was near, but I didn’t want to go. I fought and I fought hard.
Against all odds I made it through that crucial first week and then kept fighting for the entire year to come.
I had to get my weight back up and hope my body would be able to somewhat repair itself.
That year was a long one. I was in a comatose state for over 6 months while my weight slowly increased.
It was only once I reached 120 lbs that it became easier to put on weight.
There was nothing bad or good about this year, everything was grey.
I kept fighting throughout the year and eventually got better. Towards the end of the summer my cardiologist diagnosed me as ready to go back to school.
I didn’t know it then but there was still a lot to accomplish.
Every single day is still a battle: physically and mentally. With the help of a psychogist, I have learned how anorexia nervosa works.
It is rooted inside my brain, at its very core. No matter what, it will always be there creeping around.
For my days to come, I will forever have to fight myself in order to survive.
But I can survive. I can hope by sharing my story, others will be saved.