Dancing With Anorexia Essay, Research Paper
September 5, 2000 Writing from Recall (final draft)
Dancing with Anorexia
As a young girl, nothing made me feel more grown-up than getting ready for
holidays with my mom and her sisters. The women on my mom?s side of the family
gathered in a spare bedroom of my grandparents? home and prepared themselves for the
festivities. The excitement was exhilarating and I felt special to be included in this sacred
ritual at such a tender age. Make-up cluttered the vanity, countless articles of clothing,
pairs of pantyhose, socks, and shoes littered the bedroom floor, and the noise from the
constant conversations was deafening. As much fun as we had during those times, the
core of these memories for me is the focus that was placed on our bodies. I remember all
three of my aunts, with my mom alongside, pinching their thighs, abdomens, and buttocks,
and cursing every inch of flesh they had. Though I will always cherish the times we spent
together, I cannot discount how these occasions helped contribute to the painful feelings I
was already developing about my body. These feelings eventually evolved into a lifelong,
dangerous dance with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
The summer before my freshman year in high school, my obsession with my body
spun out of control. I began to restrict my caloric intake and increase the intensity and
frequency of my exercising. During this summer, I also began to induce vomiting when I
did eat. As I had hoped, my weight plummeted twenty pounds before school started that
year. Friends and family noticed the drastic weight loss and I was frequently
complimented on my appearance. I was careful not to let my secret out and continued my
destructive lifestyle. High school was a roller coaster of weight gains and losses that
seemed to never end. Several teachers began to voice concerns, especially during those
times that my weight loss was more severe, and friends were threatening to disclose my
habits to my parents. Still, I refused to admit I had an actual eating disorder.
I was hospitalized the first time in April of 1997 at Rock Creek Center in Lemont,
Illinois. I spent three long months on the eating disorders unit as a less than cooperative
patient. While in the hospital, I was told that in order to recover, I must face the issues
underlying the anorexia. I learned that the anorexia was not the actual problem, but the
symptom of a much deeper disturbance. Slowly I began to look into the reasons I became
anorexic so many years before. At first, the self-discovery process was intriguing but
feelings and issues arose that made me crawl back into the arms of my eating disorder. I
regressed severely the last month of my stay and was released in almost the same
condition I had been admitted with.
As time passed, the feelings buried deep inside of me fueled the anorexia. I
refused to deal with the events and ideas from my life that made anorexia seem to be my
only refuge. Fear, shame, guilt, depression, and an overall feeling of being innately ?bad,?
weighed on my mind constantly. My only escape and comfort was starving myself and
purging. Losing weight had become my goal and the only thing in my life I felt I was
successful at. If I continued to center my attention on issues of dieting, the unbearable
feelings would disappear, or so I thought. Reluctance to deal with my past only took me
as far as the next hospital and evoked frustration and fright in my family and friends.
Chronic health problems, countless hospitalizations, and losing custody of my
daughter did not stop me from deepening my intimate relationship with anorexia. I was
constantly making promises to recover, gain weight, and make peace with myself both
inside and out. I had sporadic stints of recovery but always fell back into my old, familiar
patterns. September of 1999 was the last time I was near healthy. Exhausted and over
eighty pounds lighter, I still struggle with anorexia.
The past eleven years have been long, difficult, and tiring. Facing my past and
working towards recovery continue to intimidate me. As scared as I am to recover, the
thought of living in this manner, or dying in this manner, is daunting also. I love my
children, family, and friends with all that I have; however, my recovery cannot solely be
based on my love for others. I harbor the hope that someday I will find in myself what
others see in me. In the end, I must decide that I deserve to eat and to live despite the
feelings that my battle with anorexia nervosa evolved from.