By Whitney Sabins
Sharing about one of my deepest and darkest struggles can seem intimidating, but the reality is if I don’t speak up then what good does that do? I was an anorexic for 17 years. Seventeen years of wanting something that seemed so unattainable yet rewarding at the same time. Like most things in life, I didn’t just one day wake up and decide, “You know I think I am going to starve myself today.” Just like a drug addict doesn’t wake up one day and become addicted to drugs. My earliest memories of wanting to be thin began in the 8th grade. I had a good friend who one day confided in me that she was going to start making herself throw up so she could lose a couple of pounds. I honestly didn’t think much of this, other than that I couldn’t imagine giving up pizza Fridays with tater tots at school and forcing myself to throw up. But I began to notice that my friend was dramatically losing weight and was getting attention from both boys and girls. My friend’s decision and the reaction from our friends helped fuel my decision to follow suit. I went from watching what I ate to obsessing over food. I measured everything, counted calories, did 500 sit ups a night, ran, you name it I did it.
Shortly after the beginning of my junior year in High School, my parents thought it was time for me to go see a psychiatrist – they knew there was a problem. So I went. I didn’t really cooperate much with the psychiatrist, so much so that he put me into the hospital. I don’t remember too much about the hospital, just that I wanted to do just enough to get myself out and not have to go there again. I remember feeling that I didn’t belong there. As in the words of a teenaged girl, “it was weird and the patients were scary.” After that I managed to get by, but, each day was a struggle. I wanted to be thinner and thinner. I wanted to see my bones, my ribs; I loved it when people called me tiny and skinny. I loved and became addicted to what people were noticing about me.
Fast forward to 2010; my husband, Allen, and I are happily married. Shortly after our amazing wedding we found out that we would be expecting our very first child. I panicked for several reasons, but one of them was, “OH MY I HAVE TO START EATING!” During my pregnancy with my son I gained over 65 pounds! From what my doctor told me I had gone to the other side of this disease: the obesity side. Obesity is essentially the same psychological disorder, just one person decides to feed the disease and the other decides to starve it.
After I gave birth to my son I didn’t want to be as skinny as I had been in the past. But that desire didn’t last very long. After I stopped nursing, I began to go right back into my old habits. It was like getting right back on a bike and riding off – I couldn’t wait to fit back into my super skinny clothes; I was fearless. That decision led me to my “rock bottom” moment. I could barely hold a conversation with someone, I was dizzy and tired all the time, and I was having a hard time physically carrying our son. Everything in life overwhelmed me to the point of tears. I had enough.
With the encouragement from my husband, I decided to get the help that I so desperately needed. I had placed several calls into doctors but I only received one phone call back from a doctor by the name of Jinny. She spoke with such urgency. She said, “You need to come here tomorrow.” I remember thinking “Oh no I don’t, I am not THAT BAD!” Well, I went. The first words out of my mouth to her were, “Just so you know, I don’t want to be here.” She sat across ,from me and said, “Here, take a look at this Body Mass Index chart. Try and find your number on the chart.” I looked at her and said, “It’s not on here.” That’s all it took – I knew that this was the doctor that would be able to get through to me. In that same session Dr. Jinny told me that I could die and that my liver was most likely in danger. I was in a very dark place and didn’t even know it until that day. I am eternally grateful for Dr. Jinny, but I am even more grateful that I finally woke up. Dr. Jinny played an integral role in my recovery. She gave me the skills I needed to survive, she unpacked my history of wanting to please and to be perfect, she challenged me, and she helped me realize that the disease I so desperately clung to was damaging everything in my path, including myself.
I have been healed of this disease now for nearly five years and have no desire to starve myself. With the help of an amazing doctor, my family (particularly my husband), and my faith, I was able to understand that I was being careless and reckless with my lifestyle. Each day that went by I was damaging my relationships and was allowing the disease to dictate every step of my life. Its grip on my life was suffocating. In sharing my story, I want you to know that, with the proper help and support, you can win the battle over this revolting disease. If you are suffering from an eating disorder then please know that you can win the battle! There is hope, there is help, and there is a person underneath the disease that wants more out of this life. YOU ARE WORTH IT!