Monday, June 28, 2010


Karen Elizabeth

"Time lines are funny things… we all have them, ways of mentally measuring the years of our life. Some people measure by events, or by locations, by successes and failures. I have always measured by numbers… but not by age or years, by weight. The years of my life are neatly mapped out in my brain, categorized by ounces and pounds. I suppose that’s just one of the quirks of having had an eating disorder for more than twelve years of my life.

My name is Karen Elizabeth, I'm 23, and I have been anorexic and bulimic since age 11.

If I had to pinpoint exactly when my dysfunctional relationship with food began, I couldn’t. I can say that I probably have more early childhood memories connected to food than your average non-eating disordered person does. I can say I clearly remember the first time I forced myself to vomit… I was five years old, it was Christmas time, and I had eaten too many frosted sugar cookies. My logic was if I feel sick, then I’ll get sick, and feel better. I would not connect vomiting to losing weight for another six years.

If I had to pinpoint exactly when I started despising my body, I couldn’t do that either. It would be easy to say that my virulent hatred for my body began after being molested at age eight, but that’s not entirely true. Even as a young child, I felt disgusted by my body. I remember comparing my legs and thighs to my friends, and mine were always "too big." Even as a six year old in ballet class, I hated the way I looked in my leotard. I would stare into the wall of mirrors, wishing I were small and perfect like the other little girls. Looking back at photos, I can clearly see I was a completely average-sized little girl. But I have never felt average-sized, in my own head I have always been "Fat."

I can pinpoint the exact moment I willingly took a running leap into the realm of eating disorders. I was in sixth grade. I had long-since developed a constant sense of body consciousness, spent far too long staring into mirrors, trying on clothes, and comparing myself to other girls. One night, after dinner, a light bulb went off. I decided puking would make me skinny. If it went in, it would come out, right? And so it did, and afterwards I sat smugly in the bathtub, imagining what my thighs would look like when they no longer touched.

The gun had been loaded for a long time,
my finger had been tentatively on the trigger for a while.
That night I fired, took my first shot,
and declared all out war on my body.
If only I had known then, that this was a war that could only be won by dying.

Karen ElizabethKaren Elizabeth

Middle and high school became a blur. By eighth grade I had moved from bulimia to anorexia, and perfected the art of starvation. I joined track team in an effort to lose more weight, and used that excuse to go jogging every night. I skipped breakfast and lunch, and developed the habit of taking my dinner up to my room to study while I "ate," but all I would do was spray perfume all over the food so I wouldn't be tempted to eat it before I could "dispose" of it. On the rare nights when I did have to eat with my family, I would make a pit stop during my nightly jog, and purge in the woods.

My parents began to realize something was changing about me. I was irritable, hardly slept, my life consisted of school work and running, and I was getting very thin. My mom began buying ensure, and would try to force me to drink it before I was allowed to leave the house with friends. I would take a minuscule sip, smirk, and run out the door. My dad started making my school lunches, and would cut my sandwiches into heart shapes, trying to get me to eat. I remember choking back tears and guilt when I would throw them away in the cafeteria trash can, like I was throwing his love away.

High School came, and things just seemed to get worse each year. The first semester of Ninth grade, I discovered *adderall*. No hunger, No emotion, Pure Energy. I was hooked. For the next four years I would spend all my lunch money, and whatever else I could muster, to get my fix.

By tenth grade, I was more well-known for being the anorexic chick, then for anything else. I had my friends, mostly guys because they don't ask so many questions about your eating habits. The few girlfriends I had did what they could to keep me in control, they would stand outside the bathroom stall to keep me from purging, or if they knew someone was about to sell me *adderall*, they would threaten to turn them in unless they flushed it. I resented them at the time for it, but they may have well saved my life several times. That year I got busted for trading *vicodin* for *adderall* on school property, ended up on probation, and almost got expelled from school. It was enough to make me stop buying. I started losing my grip on hunger, and gave into bulimia. The weight started coming back on.

In 11th grade, alcohol came into the picture. I never drank like my friends from the start, at parties I would be the one who got smashed, passed out, and then woke up ready to party after everyone else had finally passed out. I was a blackout drinker from the get go, and I cannot recall an occasion where there was alcohol around me and I didn't drink. That year I vacillated into mostly bulimic behaviors, and put on an incredible amount of weight, my highest in high school, 185 lbs. I remember feeling so incredibly out of control, disgusting, and full of anger. This all served well to fuel my budding alcoholism.

In 12th grade, one of my friends, Jerry, hung himself. October 22nd of 2004. Something snapped, I stopped giving a fuck about anything. I started buying *adderall* again, I was high at his funeral. I started taking vodka to school in a water bottle. I lost my virginity to a complete scumbag, and looking back on that event, in all reality it was date-rape. I was high, but clearly remember saying "No." over and over again. The worst part is, I kept going back to him. I guess I didn't want to deal with what it really was. I just stayed in my eating-disordered, alcohol and *adderall* fueled little fantasy land. By graduation, my weight had come back down to 115 lbs, and I could wear a size 2 in American Eagle. I was a lifeguard at a local waterpark the summer before college, and the parties and blackouts picked up pace.

I headed off to Georgia Southern, as was expected. I knew in my heart that I was doing the wrong thing, that I was too sick to be left to my own devices, I could just feel the impending doom... but I didn't know how to tell my parents. My first night at college, I went to a bar, got shitfaced, stayed the night with some random guy, and bought binge food on the way back to my dorm the next morning. That's pretty much the main theme of my few months at GSU. By the 2nd week of school, I had completely stopped going to any of my classes, stayed drunk/high, binged and purged up to eight times a day. I stopped seeing all my high school friends who had come to GSU. I didn't want them to see what I had become. Then, I was introduced to cocaine by my semi-boyfriend, who was a dealer. It took me over, and within a few months I was almost constantly in a sleep-deprived, cocaine-fueled, starvation induced psychosis. You know you're pretty fucked up when your coke-dealer, drug addict boyfriend tells you he can't deal with your issues anymore.

By December, my parents started to figure out what was going on and staged an intervention, and I went to my first rehab. I was there for thirty days, and came home to live with my parents when I got out. I started going to AA regularly, and now I can say that I have not touched a drug since 2005. Alcohol, and my eating disorder are a whole 'nother story.

In the last five years, I have shifted between anorexia and bulimia, I have been every weight from 189 lbs to 102 lbs. I have been through five more residential/inpatient treatment programs, and yet my eating disorder still consumes me. Since my last treatment stay, 3 1/2 months at Rosewood Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona, I have at least stayed sober. I now have a little over two years of sobriety through AA, but I have not overcome my eating disorder just yet.

I have lost my health insurance, which is scary for anyone, but especially for someone with anorexia and bulimia. I know that I can't afford to let this disease get to a point where my only hope is treatment, because treatment is no longer an option. But slowly, it's getting worse. About a year and a half ago, I started working as a tech in a local treatment center (go figure) and the physical exertion and stress of twelve hour shifts took its toll on my body, and I started losing weight. This triggered my anorexia, and I started slipping back into my disease.

Karen Elizabeth

Let me be clear, that I made the choice. I knew what was starting to happen, and I didn't fight it like I should have. I welcomed it, it allowed me to feel in control, composed, in charge. I am only a victim of my own mind, No one else causes someone to be anorexic or bulimic. There may be a lot of puzzle pieces that create the right conditions for an eating disorder to develop, but ultimately we are the ones who make the choice. The problem is, once you make that first choice to starve or puke, you're headfirst down into the rabbit hole... and the longer you stay there, and the deeper you go, the harder it is to find your way back out.

I want to get back out, I have so many reasons to get back out, but I can't even see the way back just yet. I now have a great job as and administrative assistant at a non-profit, and I absolutely love it. I've been with my boyfriend for four years now, we have a cute little dog and our own apartment, he's been sober for five years, and I know he is the guy I will marry, and the future father of my kids. My relationship with my family has healed quite a bit, (they don't quite know how bad I am struggling with my ed). I'm finally financially stable. The future I want is so close I can taste it, but my relationship with food is still standing in the way. I'm adamant about not becoming a mother until I am completely out of this disease, the thought of passing this on to my daughters is absolutely unacceptable.

My days of late consist of working all the time, drinking ridiculously strong coffee every morning, and then all day at work, only eating dinner, no breakfast or lunch. Absolutely dreading any lunch meetings that occasionally pop up at work. On my days off, if Joe is at work, I will give way to binging and purging. Then spend the rest of the day drinking pedialyte and worrying. (I have been to the ER three times in the past year for heart palpitations due to dehydration). My biggest issue right now is wondering what the hell I have done to my digestive system, as it seems that I have had a constant back up of bile in my stomach the last week, and wake up every morning feeling extremely nauseated, throw up, and it's all bile. My abdomen has been painful and crampy for the last few days, and it only takes a few bites of food for me to feel bloated. According to webmd, this could be either a gallbladder issue, or the beginning of gastroparesis. I guess it's time for a physical. Maybe this will be what it takes to make me completely surrender, before I kill myself.

I will get out of this, I will recover. I did not get sober just to die from my eating disorder. And when all is said and done, at least I'll be able to write a damn good book."

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Anonymous said...

Heck yes will you be able to write a book. And you should. You've very good at writing, hope you know that.
You completely caught me. Uhm... I really just wish the best for you, but you seem like someone who can make it. Okay now I feel weird cause I usually can put my thoughts into words quite well, but now I can't. Just.... Keep going. You can make it.

Aga said...

Karen, please don't say that you 'didn't fight like you should' - that's ED talk and sometimes you just can't resist slipping back. What's important is that you REALISE what you're doing, and without that you cannot change anything, so bear that in mind.

Also, in case it helps: your stomach problem sounds like gastritis to me, when the valve between your intestines and the rest of your digestive trackt doesn't contract properly and you end up with bad bile blowback? My bf has it, and it HURTS. Centarium, a herbal remedy, could help for that, but you'd have to be careful as it sometimes (please note it's a SOMETIMES!) induces appetite. Go easy on acidic foods, have some fresh carrot juice to sooth your guts and take care!

Lucy said...

Karen, thankyou so much for sharing, It really helps!! with much love x

Medusa, you work miracles on your site. However, I do worry about some of the sponsored links - Karen's story has a link to a site where you can purchase Aderall!! Ouch - highly addictive and really really nasty, especially for us guys. Is there anything that can be done?

Thankyou for your wonderful work x

Medusa said...

Lucy, thanks so much for your comment. I didn't notice the link to Adderall. Yikes! I'll remove it immediately.

Again, many thanks for the heads-up.