A letter to those who need it

My name is Katie, and I'm 17. I have been struggling with Anorexia for three years. I consider myself "recovered" right now, but there are always days or weeks that I slip back into old behaviors, and not a day passes where I don't think about it. My eating disorder and the effects it had on my life will be with me forever.

It all started during the summer after eighth grade, and continued to get worse from there. I was so depressed that I refused to talk to anyone. When school started again, I made the volleyball team. Our coach really stressed the idea of dieting to make sure we stayed in shape. I took her words straight to heart, and immediately began to spend all my time worrying about my appearance. My parents didn't notice anything was wrong at first because I was so good at finding ways to hide what was going on, but after a while my disorder became obvious to everyone. My coach wouldn't let me play anymore because I wasn't strong enough, and all my friends tried everything and anything to get me to eat. But nothing seemed to work. I wanted to eat to make them happy, but I just couldn't. My mom took me straight to the doctor, who said I was going to die if I kept eating like I was. My mom cried every night and begged me to take care of myself. My dad would start crying silently and leave the room whenever he looked at me, and I'd never seen him cry before that.

On the day of my 15th birthday, I was hospitalized for Major Depressive Disorder and Anorexia Nervosa. The hospital was about thirty minutes from home, and my family visited every day. But I was miserable. The doctors continuously asked what I was thinking, how I was feeling, and they never stopped. When I would not do what was expected of me, I was put into the "Quiet Room," which is basically a jail cell; nothing but a mattress on the floor and blank, peach-colored walls. I started to fall behind in school. I couldn't concentrate on my homework anymore because my brain was dying while my body wasted away. Walking was hard because I was constantly dizzy. They weighed me every morning. It was extremely humiliating.

I felt so violated and out of control of my life while I was there. During the next five months, I went to two other hospitals, one in Iowa and the other in Illinois. I felt so alone. I was away from home for over three months in a row, never seeing my friends or my family or my pets. Doctors did all sorts of medical tests on me, and I was forced to stay in a wheelchair for two weeks because my heartbeat was so slow that they thought I was going to have a heart attack if I even stood up. I felt like I had gone insane and lost everything I had ever worked and hoped for.

I turned to cutting my arms and legs to take away my emotional pain. I was a wreck. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth doing that kind of damage to oneself. I was told I would have to repeat ninth grade because I missed an entire semester of school, that I would be in and out of hospitals for the rest of my life, and that my family would be put through never-ending pain forever. But somehow, I became hopeful. I don't know what happened or what caused it. Maybe the hope had been there all along, covered by stronger emotions. I still don't know. I began to fight my eating disorder with all the strength I had in me. Within the next month, I was home and on my way to being happy again. Even now, after being home for two years, I still remember every day I was in the hospital. Like I said, it's always going to be a part of me. But thanks to medication, support from my family and my friends, and my own strong will, I am healthy today. Please, don't put yourself and the people you love through that kind of experience. We all have so much to live for.