"Have you eaten today?"
I can hear the chorus of voices asking me over and over. I knew people would notice my lies eventually. After all, I was losing weight rapidly. By the time it was all said and done, I'd be almost 48 pounds lighter than when I had started. Even knowing this, my response to every single voice was, "Of course." I'd even add a big fake smile that would make it that much more believable. It took nearly five months for anyone to realize something was horribly wrong. I was dying.
When I look back to that day in late December, I can tell I was gaunt. I can't say skinny. Every single piece of me screamed that I am not and could never be. I don't remember a time when I could look in the mirror without disgust. To be quite honest, looking in the mirror is less appealing than shoving multiple, thick needles into my eyes. I only knew because I was told that I was almost too malnourished to function. I was half dead and I didn't even know it. I just could not see past that horrible, huge girl I that stared back at me in the mirror. I was beyond the point of no return, and if my parents hadn't caught me that very day, I would've died. It wasn't that painful, so how would I have known I was a walking talking heart attack waiting to happen. But I didn't know. I was too busy running off the fat; burning every inch of those horrendous pockets of fat that covered my entire body. That's the effect anorexia has on you. It will shut down all of the rational parts of your brain and leave you focused on this impossible goal of turning absolutely invisible. My goal weight was 52 pounds, a weight that would have killed me. I honestly believed, though reason screamed that I was absolutely dead wrong, that I was simply on a diet. I thought I was just like every other girl who simply dieted a little to lose a few pounds; though I had a deadlier weight goal than they did. I couldn't see that this elephant in the mirror that I called Savannah was about to kill herself.
From August until December, barely a bite of food passed through
my lips though whatever did didn't stay there very long. By
December I could barely even keep a bite of food down because my
stomach couldn't digest it. That's when my mother noticed. She
kidnapped me the morning before winter break and drove me to
Vanderbilt for a physical examination. They told me they needed
to take my weight, and I held my breath, standing on that scale
in a hospital gown, praying that I wasn't that monster of a girl
that I saw every day. I was 82 pounds. They looked me up and
down, all skin and bones and I will never forget the genuine fear
in their eyes, though I felt a surge of pride. Two months ago I'd
been 106 pounds. That was over a 20 pound weight difference in
such a short time. They told me to lie down on the bed so that
they could take an EKG. An EKG measures heart rate and the power
of each individual pump. The sweet old nurse who had just taken
my weight delicately placed little plastic stickers to my chest
and stomach. I was too tired to fight her, but every inch of me
wanted to slap her little, gentle hand away and make a break for
home. I didn't believe I had a problem. I wasn't skinny enough.
Even if my heart rate was in the low thirties (a healthy rate is
in the upper 70s), I refused to believe that I was starving
myself. I truly believed with all my heart that I was perfectly
fine. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was dying. I
could tell you every little thing I hated about myself. My arms,
my legs, my smile, my skin, my hair, my laugh; all of it was
completely unacceptable to me. Every individual detail of the
body I was living in I despised so passionately I would cry for
hours at night wishing I could disappear completely. Even to this
day, not I single good thing about me or my body would ever come
from my mouth. Which is why when they told me my weight that day
as they were explaining my situation, I made a disgusted face.
"That much? Why the heck am I here?"
A healthy weight for me was 130. I was 50 pounds underweight.
They stood outside my door, talking quietly to the doctor while I waited impatiently, frustration growing. Why was I here? This was pointless! I could feel my heart beating. Sure, it was a little fast and a little too frantic, but it was beating. I was breathing, well, panting. I was alive. All of this just proved my point to me. As long as I was alive, I couldn't be anorexic. Anorexics were skinny, and I was not even close. There were only a few things I was certain of at the time, and that was one of them.
Upon entering the room, the doctor sat at the end of my bed looked me in the eyes, and said the words that I had been dreading him saying. "You are anorexic. We recommend that you stay here at the hospital for a little while…"
I know he kept talking but I wasn't even listening. I wasn't sick. I may have been on a little bit of an extreme diet, but I wasn't anorexic. Anorexic people had no fat on their tiny bodies. I had pocket after pocket of fat smothering me. It completely covered me. It was everywhere; that evil thing. How dare they say I was anorexic when I was the biggest person in the room! How could they waste their time on me when there were actual anorexics out there that needed their help? But they were so focused on me that they were dying. I'd be fine. If only I could've seen the little bag of bones I'd become. They didn't stop when I cried. They didn't stop when I screamed. So I sat there, struggling to process everything that my brain absolutely refused to accept. Nothing could make them stop saying that horrible word. It would catch and hold, like a fly in a spider's web, when I tried to say it. I was so certain that I was going to be fine, that when they tried to put the feeding tube in, I held up my hand and said, "I'm fine. You have better things to do then worry about me." I said the same thing when the doctor told me I probably wouldn't make it through the night. Even when I nearly didn't, I never stopped saying that.
Recovery is hard. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. In those months I spent starving, I came dangerously close to losing everything I loved, wanted, and hoped for. All of my dreams were so unimportant compared to this new desire for absolute perfection. I always thought this disease was my best friend. I thought it was my only friend. I was lonely and depressed, but this promised to keep me company. I can't say I'm much better. I still miss that gnawing hunger. I still wish that every time I looked in the mirror, I there was a visible difference in my weight. I still dream of running mile after mile and feeling my muscles eat away at themselves all night. I know now that to choose that path is to choose death, but I still desperately want to go back. Whether I die or not doesn't matter to me. The disease won't let me care and it never will. I will have to deal with this for the rest of my life. I spend every second resisting the urge to return to my old ways, and every time I succeed, I realize I am that much stronger. I have already survived, so I just have to keep it up. I will keep going just to prove to myself that I am a fighter. Anorexia kills 80% of its sufferers, so I know that I was meant to live. I was not meant to die of this disease. That is why I will keep fighting. I will fight because I know I can. This trip to the hospital was enough to prove to me that I am stronger than most people. I will stay strong and I will keep fighting until I am able to live my life free of all these thoughts that haunt me. I know that someday I will be able to let go. I know because I am strong. I am a fighter. I am a survivor.