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Skin and Bones
Author's note: I wrote this mostly as a coping method, and to get it out of my soul. Most people don't know about this part of my life, but I shouldn't be ashamed of it. I should share it. So I am.
I feel my fingers scratch at my skin, aching to inflict pain. My hands rise up to my head and tear at the stringy strands of hair hanging to my shoulders. My soul is desperate and searching...my heart beats wildly and inside I rage against life. "You are ugly, stupid, gross and fat". I mutter. "Worthless piece of crap!" My eyes scan the chest of drawers in front of me and land on a letter opener that is sharp and shaped like a miniature dagger. I pick it up and stab at my wrist "cut, CUT!" I demand out loud, but in a whisper. Why won't it pierce my skin? I am furious at myself, can't I do anything right?
I give up, stamping my foot in frustration. If I am honest with myself, I don't really want to hurt anymore, I don't want to bleed or scar. But I know I must. The hurt inside is too big, and is overflowing. Hurting myself is the only way to get the pain and rage out. I sob, tears and snot running haphazardly down my face. "Why me?" I think. I breathe deeply and run my left hand down my right arm. There aren't any cuts today, no abrasions to show the world how messed up I am. I wander slowly over to my bed and sink down onto the mattress, exhausted "Please, God...save me from myself" I plead. He is the only one who can save me now. I am far from the point of no return.
Four years ago I woke up...but almost couldn't stand up. I lowered my feet onto the hardwood floor and shuffled my way over to my chest of drawers. I pulled open the top drawer, and randomly grabbed a pair of balled up socks. As I bent down to put the socks on, my vision got a little fuzzy and dark. I started to feel light-headed...as I straightened up, I closed my eyes to try to clear my vision. It didn't really work, so I reached up into the top shelf of my closet and pulled down my candy stash. I dipped my hand into the small candy box and searched around for a small Dove chocolate. Eventually I found one- Milk Chocolate with Almond- and I started to pick at the foil wrapper with my fingers. "It's just low blood sugar" I told myself. "Nothing to worry about". As I popped the chocolate into my mouth, I silently told myself that I needed to make sure to savor this, as it would be the last thing I ate in a while. I needed to savor this, because I hadn’t had a piece of chocolate in 2 months. I needed to savor this to stay sane.
That little piece of chocolate was my breakfast that day. Of course it was, how could I let anything but water past my lips while my brain was telling me I wasn't hungry, couldn't eat, didn't need anything, I was fine? I was always fine. "Lydia, is that your stomach growling?" my mom would ask. I would say, "oh, that? No, it's just my stomach making weird noises...it does that ...bubbles." In reality, my stomach was eating itself, because it had nothing else to digest. Lately, all I'd been eating was small piece of fruit for breakfast, a small sandwich or something for lunch, and a very small serving of whatever was served for supper. No snacks, no sweets. No nothing. 200 calories a day at most. Exercise piled on top of that worked off all of the calories I consumed. I was a walking skeleton.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, do you see what everyone else sees? Or is it kind of like the theory that everyone sees colors in a different way? If you see fat, do they see average? If you see skinny do they see skeletal? I think my view was skewed in a way that only let me see what I wanted. I wanted to see someone average and not malnourished, because if I saw someone too thin in the mirror, that would be admitting I had a problem. Did I have a problem? Why wasn't I hungry anymore? Why couldn't I laugh at anything? Why didn't I care? Where had the joy for life gone? I certainly had none of the answers to these questions. But I did think about them a lot. In fact, I thought so much, that by the time someone approached me with the concern that I may have a problem, I knew all of my feelings inside and out.
Mom and I were downtown shopping for swimsuits when I first felt uncomfortable about my new weight. We went into several shops, but none seemed to have anything modest enough for my mother's tastes. Finally though, we were looking through the swim gear rack at the last store, and I found a bikini bottom and top with a surf shirt to cover up the skimpiness of the regular swim top. I went to the dressing room to try it on, hoping it would fit since I wanted to swim that year. For at least the 5th time, I slipped off my shorts and shirt and undies and pulled on the stretchiness of the swimsuit. As I put the bikini top on, I noticed as I had a few times before, that the skin on my arms was very tight and very dry. Every movement I made with my arms felt like I had let paint dry on my skin, and the dried paint was cracking with my movements. My shoulders, back, and elbows were pointy, like a baby birds when it is just born and without many feathers. When I had put the whole of the suit on I shyly opened the door to the dressing room. Somehow I knew. I knew this would be the turning point. That showing this much skin to my mom would finally open her eyes to what had been slowly happening under cover of my layers of sweatshirts and blue jeans. Surprisingly, she didn't mention anything of it to me for several weeks. Not until a friend of ours pointed it out to her. But by then, I was so far gone.
The summer of 2007, some good friends of our family called and asked if any of our family would be interested in helping pick rocks in their fields. If any of you are from Iowa, you know how this works most likely. For some reason, it seems like the soil in Iowa grows rocks. One year you'll go through a field and pick up all of the visible rocks. A year later you might walk into the field to check your freshly tilled ground, and see hundreds more rocks. It kind of seems pointless to pay money to have the rocks gathered up, right? Well, if the rocks are just left there, some expensive farming equipment might be damaged greatly. So, my 3 sisters and brother and I were recruited to pick rocks in the beginning of July. The weather in the summer can be very unpredictable in Iowa, so for all we knew, we could be picking rocks and sweating buckets...and in my case be in severe danger. But remember, my mom wasn't really aware of anything at this point.
My mom drove us to the field where we would be working, which was about seven miles south west of the town we lived in. We met the farmer and his wife and kids near the field where we would be picking. Everyone was dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, because though the day had the potential to be hot, it was early in the morning and there was still a chill in the air. That morning our mom had told us to eat a big breakfast, since we would be working hard and might not get a break until noon. I had looked around our kitchen searching for something "safe" to eat. My eyes landed on our plate of fruit we kept relatively well stocked. "A peach isn't too many calories, is it?" I asked myself. It would have to do, since there would be no easy way to tote along my customary leftover half of banana from breakfast that I ate for lunch. (Yes, I ate 1/2 a banana for breakfast, and the other half for lunch. Please do not try this at home.) Instead of a half of a banana for lunch, I had planned and packed a turkey "sandwich". This consisted of 2 slices of white bread, mustard, pickles and two slices of turkey. I hadn't allowed myself this luxury in weeks.
Our first break came around 10. Since I had been starving myself for so long, I couldn't even feel hunger anymore. I was always craving food, my life revolved around it...yet, I never allowed myself to eat more than say, 200 calories at a time. And this was only 3 times per day. Yet, I knew that there was a sandwich in our cooler...and so was my water bottle...I went to get a drink of water, and broke down. I would have half of my sandwich now, and eat the rest at lunch. In four bites, my little piece of sin was gone. The other half sat miniscule and forlorn in it's sandwich baggy. My lunch.
It turned out, one of the local banks was doing some kind of a promotion, and they brought sack lunches to us that day. When we stopped for a lunch break, we were each given a brown sack that had a hoagie inside, with mayo, turkey, lettuce and other fixings on it, a bottled water, a baggie of chips, and a prepackaged Hostess treat. My heart started to beat a little faster. What would I do? I had brought my own sandwich. I HAD to eat that other leftover half...my brain nervously thought over how I could get away with not eating this pile of food I had been offered. Coming to a conclusion, I went with it. Shyly I wandered over to the farmers. "I brought my own lunch, would you like my sandwich and chips?" Eagerly and unquestioningly, they snatched my offering right up. And as for the Hostess treat, well, I knew my brother had his eye on that already. I was left with only the 0 calorie bottle of purified water and my 1/2 sandwich. I settled down with my siblings and our friends, the farmer's children. I resolved to make my sandwich bit last. As long as a half sandwich can.
We picked rocks for about a week that summer. One night in particular, I remember, because the farmer's wife asked us if we wanted to get pizza. I knew...many things about pizza. Several of these things were: one slice had more calories than I ate in a day, I was deathly afraid of pizza, eating one piece wouldn't fill me up, but it would still be "too much"...but I had been working all day, as had everyone else. Everyone else would eat several pieces of the pie, I'd only allow myself one of the smallest slices I could find. We ordered the pizza, and went into town pick up the pizza from a gas station, and eat it at my family's house. Everyone had that excitement that pizza brings about. You know what I'm talking about, if you like pizza. So, no one really seemed to notice what I ate, to my relief. They were too absorbed in chowing their own pizza. When it came time for our friends to leave, I basically took over and insisted that they take the pizza, not leave it with us. I knew that if they left it with us, it would only be there to tempt me. plus, I rationalized, they had paid for it after all. Another close call, survived...or...not.
The day before I was "discovered" our friends had brought snacks with them on the truck we were throwing the rocks into. Things like granola bars, cookies, and chips. Things I would never allow myself to eat. Throughout the day, my friends mom (the farmer's wife) would shouting things to me. "Think of how strong this is making us!" "You're going to have big muscles from this, huh, Lyd?" "We're taking a snack break soon, make sure you fuel up!" While I know these things were meant to encourage me, I still thought of a comeback in my head each time. Okay, it annoyed me a bit. I think she suspected something was up. anyway, during the snack breaks she would urge me to eat something. I would always get away with just finding my water bottle and chugging on that. But the last break we took, she caught me. "Lydia, we're doing hard work out here, water is good to keep hydrated, but you really need something to eat to keep you going. how about some corn chips?" My mouth watered at the thought..."no," I thought. "I will NOT give in. I don't need to eat, I'm fine." "I'm fine". I said quietly. "A banana then?" She queried. I could feel myself weakening...after all, a banana was an "allowed" food. It was healthy, a fruit...right? Shaking nervously I picked through the snacks until I found the banana's. I ripped one off of the bunch and peeled the bruised skin back. I took the first bite. And another. And another, until it was gone. Oh. My. Gosh. What had I done? I had listened to a person I looked up to, and respected. I had drowned out the voice of my twisted brain. I. Had. Won. That time.
The next day, my mom got a call from the wife. They talked for a while. I thought nothing of it, really. That they must be making plans for where to meet up the next day when we went to pick more rocks. But that night, while I was in my room getting ready for bed, my mom came in and asked if she could talk to me. I knew. Right then. In my heart. "Do you think you aren't eating as much as you normally do?" She asked gently. I looked at her, somewhat innocently. "I'm just not hungry." I replied. "Honey, you are working very hard out there, and so are the others. Mrs. P and I are just worried about you...she said she's noticed that you don’t eat much." Well, that was the understatement of the century!! We talked for a while, and I started to cry eventually. I was very emotional lately, but I think I also started to cry to protect myself. To seem helpless, like it wasn't my fault. My mom hugged me, and left me with "just try to eat more, ok?" During the time we had talked, I had confessed that I had started to keep a food journal, but that I felt like it was becoming too obsessive, so I had stopped. But little did she know that my brain hadn't stopped journaling every morsel that passed my lips. I owe my life to Mrs. P, the woman that made my mom aware of what was going on with me, and that I needed help. Without her, and God, I wouldn't be here today.
Now that I had been discovered, I needed help. I live in a small town in Iowa, and so I wasn't really sure what kind of help there was out there for people like me. I knew that there were people with anorexia everywhere though, so there had to be treatment. My mom did some research, made some calls. We found that the nearest eating disorder clinic was in Cedar Rapids, the nearest large town. My mom made an appointment for me there and a week later, there we were, sitting in the empty waiting room in the St. Luke’s hospital psychology unit.
I was home schooled, and so were my 3 sisters and older brother. I assume my baby brother will be too. So, basically my whole family came along, except for my oldest brother, and my dad, who works during the day. I was pretty embarrassed and uncomfortable about this appointment. I had no idea what to expect, and my sisters didn't even know what was going on. I didn't want them to know what was wrong with me. I was afraid they would "catch" what I had. I was also afraid they would develop an eating disorder, and I would have to compete with them to eat less. What a loving sister they have.
The first appointment I had was with a nurse named Cathy. Just us, one-on-one. She asked me questions that you might expect would be asked-"do you vomit intentionally?, how long have you been restricting food?" She took lots of notes and asked lots of questions. I left the appointment not really knowing what to think. She didn't really give me anything to work with, but I'd just have to give it time maybe. I left with a little more hope than I had when I came.
What comes first- the chicken, or the egg? This was the type of question we had to work with pertaining to my anorexia, and my depression. Had I become depressed first, or did my eating less and less make my mood plummet? I still don't know. I think maybe my depression came first, and I didn't feel like eating, and I just lost my appetite. Or, maybe I wanted to be healthier and exercise more and I ended up losing weight to an unhealthy point. I lean towards the last option, but I may never know for sure. All I know is, my body and I threw out so many hints and cries for help, but no one saw or heard. I'm not blaming anyone, but how did it go unnoticed for so long? At my worst, I weighed 67 pounds. A 67 pound 13 year old. No one can tell me that is ok. No one will ever convince me that that can't be noticed. I was a walking dead girl.
After my first appointment, I had many more. The second time I went to the clinic, I met with a nutritionist, and a psychologist as well as with the nurse. This would be my "team". They all seemed to ask me the same questions as the first time, and after that, I went home again...wondering what the heck I was doing. The next few times I went I would be put on antidepressants, and talk to the nutritionist about what was an appropriate amount to be eating. I had to start building up slow, otherwise there was a good chance my body would start to shut down because it wouldn't be able to handle the amount of food I was consuming. The first thing we did was add snacks to my "diet". What the nutritionist wanted to see me do was drink Carnation Breakfast drinks or Ensure. She gave me two white lunch sacks, each with a different flavor of the protein drinks in them. This might sound very odd, but I was so starved, those energy drinks and the permission I knew I had to be able to drink one made me so excited and scared at the same time. On the way home, my mom told me to try one. I tried a can of the ensure. I popped the tab and took a small sip. By the time we were on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids, I was crying. "Mom, I can't do this!" I exclaimed. "Why not? What do you mean?" She inquired. "It's so gross!" She coaxed me into gulping the rest of it down. I can only imagine the small comfort it was to her to know that I was getting those few calories into my body.
Over the next several months I slowly added to what I was eating. This included the protein drinks. I could handle the Carnation ones. Actually, if I was honest with myself, I liked them. Especially the chocolate ones. If my mom asked me though, I'd say they were a hardship for me to get down. I'd jump at the chance to be "busy" during the time when I was supposed to have one, just so I could get out of those extra calories. I just wasn't gaining weight like I needed to be though. My nutritionist had me writing down what I ate, and how I felt when I was eating it. most of the time I didn't really have a feeling...okay, yeah. I had a feeling that I shouldn't be eating! But...nothing else. Sometimes I could talk myself into feeling okay though. Until my eating had to be added to...again and again. To the point where I literally got sick. And couldn't stop barfing, even after I had nothing to barf up.
As I started eating more, I told myself that I needed to exercise more. To be "healthy". I started walking our dog at least 4 times a day. In between I'd eat, read, or work at my job. But otherwise I was always on the move. My mom would tell me that I needed to stop being so active, I had to stop walking so much. I didn't listen though. I just tried to sneak a little more activity in. I started walking early in the morning before breakfast and before anyone was up, and late at night when my mom was getting ready for bed. My weight stayed the same, or even dipped lower at times. I didn't care though. Sometimes my mom would bring up the fact that my heart could be in severe danger, but I just told myself that nothing would ever happen to ME. I was superhuman. After all, I had lived this long on hardly any food. I took to drinking a lot of water. Which, in some ways may have been good for me, but it also filled my small tummy up with lots of zero calorie water...and I needed calories. The last time I had gone to an appointment at the clinic, they had told me I needed to see someone to monitor any medicine I was on, and talk to me about how I was feeling. I started going to see a doctor Claudia at a different clinic. I didn't know what to expect really, but after going to her several times, I started to wonder why we were spending hundreds of dollars just so she could ask me the same questions over and over. Pretty soon after that we stopped seeing her. After I ended up in the hospital.
My nutritionist, Casey, started me out at a reasonable pace. She added a little here, and a little there. I was up to 3 protein drinks a day, and it didn't make my stomach hurt or feel uncomfortable. I had several appointments with her that seemed to go very well. I admired Casey, she was young and at a weight that I saw as healthy, and she didn't seem to judge me. She seemed to understand me. Then one day she said that she thought for now I was doing well enough for her to stop seeing me. I couldn't very well beg her to keep working with me, so even though I didn't want to see her go, I agreed with her that I thought with some guidance form my mom, she and I could do this without Casey. Casey talked to my mom about what she thought could be expected as far as how much I should be adding. I overheard her say some pretty extreme amounts, but I knew that I trusted her, and didn't have much say in any of this since obviously I would try to eat as little as possible. My mom and I went home with the hope that I wouldn't fight her too much on the new amounts, and that everything would be fine. Far from it.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of pancakes permeating the house. I knew today was special, it was my sisters birthday. My stomach, expanding at a slow pace, but getting larger nonetheless, growled in anticipation of that morning's breakfast. I was frightened by the thought of what I would eat, but food also brought me a new excitement that it hadn't before. I was being forced to eat, so I thought I might as well make the most of it. I wandered out to the kitchen, and my mom greeted me good morning. She brought over a plate with three pancakes on it, and a small glass of orange juice. So. This was the "new diet". I ate the pancakes and glugged down the juice. I knew that in an hour I'd have to drink my protein shake. I did my schoolwork during my breakfast, and then fit in a shorter walk before my snack. When I got home from the walk, my mom was waiting and she quietly told me that I needed to add something to my snack this morning. I groaned inwardly...I hated adding. She always gave me choices, and then my brain would work as fast as it could to calculate how many calories were in a bowl of Cheerios with whole milk, versus two slices of toast with butter. I went with the cereal. Before I knew it, it was time for lunch. I made a cheese and turkey pita with mayo, had applesauce, and a granola bar. And then added some cheese and crackers to that. Then at 3 came my snack, which was an apple and peanut butter, and another protein shake. Keep in mind that for the past week, I'd only been having the protein shakes and nothing else for my snacks. Today, I was trying to be polite and eat everything set before me, so as not to make a scene on my sister's birthday. We went to Dairy Queen for supper, and I got a cheeseburger kids meal, with fries, and milk. My stomach was so full! When I got into the car to leave, I noticed that it was taut as I buckled the seat belt. and I still had to have a piece of cake, and some candy that my mom had written down that I needed to eat. It was already 7, and my snacks were usually had around 8. I still had a lot of calories to cram in before bed. We all settled down around the kitchen table and sang the birthday song to my sister, and then the cake was served. I ate my piece, and we all sat around and chatted for a while. Then, it was time for the grandma's to leave. It was 8, so as they were leaving and everyone was saying goodbye, I prepared myself a strawberry protein shake. I was so full. But, I knew what I had to do. I started to drink it with a straw...slowly making progress. Then the phone rang, and I had to get it. I took one more slurp, my stomach tightening and starting to cramp. I picked up the phone and painfully said "Hello?" It was my best friend, the one whose mom had told my mom about how concerned she was. My friend asked how I was, and I pretended I was fine and that my stomach wasn't trying to tell me that it couldn't take anymore. Finally she asked for my sister. By this time, my stomach hurt so much, I was crying. It felt like I was full to the brim, and my food was about ready to explode out of my stomach. I stopped drinking my shake and sat on a wooden stool in the kitchen, groaning. My mom finally came in from outdoors, where she was saying goodbyes (she is known for lengthy ones)."Mom, I don't feel good at all" I said in a hoarse whisper. "What do you mean?" she inquired. "I feel like I'm going to barf!" I exclaimed. "Okay, why don't you go lay down for a little while on your bed. See if that helps." I set my glass down on the kitchen table, and went down the hall to my bedroom. Laying down on my bed, I let out a sigh. I felt horrible. My stomach clenched and cramped. It hurt so bad! Of course this would have to happen on one of my sisters birthdays, I would have to ruin it for them. I whimpered as a burst of pain came over me in a wave. My mom came into my bedroom. " How are you feeling now?" she asked. "It hurts!" I replied impatiently. "What's gonna happen?" I'll call up to the hospital, my mom told me calmly. She left to make the call, and I heard one of my sisters whisper worriedly to her, asking what was going on. About ten minutes later, my mom came to my room and told me that dad had gone out to Wal-Mart to get some laxatives for me, and that most likely my problem was indigestion from all of the food I had eaten that day. "What's going to happen though?" I asked worriedly. "You'll take the laxatives every fifteen minutes or so, and hope it works".
An hour later, I was still taking it. It wasn't working the way it should be, obviously. In fact I had started to throw up in addition to my stomach pain. I would wretch, think I was done. Repeat...repeat...repeat. My mom called the hospital again, and they told her she should drive me to see a particular nurse that had been dealing with my situation. This nurse happened to be in a town that was about twenty minutes away. I was too weak to walk to the van myself, so my dad carried me out and got me situated in the seat, handing me an old ice cream bucket to hurl into when I needed it. "Dad." I said. "What Lyd?" He asked. "I can't do this" I said, tears in my eyes. "I'm so sick". I kept repeating this like a mantra throughout the drive, and pretty much the whole night. The drive to the clinic was mostly a blur or me barfing and my mom trying to console me. When we neared the clinic, I asked my mom how I had anything left to barf up.
I don't know why we were told to drive twenty minutes out of our way, but when we saw the nurse, she took a look at me, tried to get me to look her in the eyes, and promptly said I needed to go to the Emergency Room back in Manchester. I turned to look at my mom, my eyes pleading. I could NOT do this much longer. I was miserable, and felt like just giving up, but I was so sick, I couldn't sleep or relax. On the drive back to town, my mom tried to keep her right arm available to steady the barf bucket as even my arms were growing exhausted. "We're going to get you better, Lydia" She soothed. "I'm gonna die." I said. That was the first time I voiced that particular fear out loud. I literally felt like I was going to die, but at this point, I couldn't care less. Anything had to be better than this hell.
"Okay, Lyd, there's a wheelchair waiting for you inside. Can you walk all right?" Asked my mom. "I don't know..." I slowly got out of the van and tried to walk, succeeding only once my mom took my arm and assisted me. I was hunched over like an old woman, and couldn't move very well. We went through the hospitals automatic doors, and to the left. Near the registration desk, there was a wheelchair. My mom led me over and helped me into it. It seemed that immediately after I sat down, a wave of cold came over me and I started to shiver, my teeth chattering. The woman at registration was kind enough to get me some blankets, straight out of the warmer. They felt delicious. I relaxed, realizing that I hadn't thrown anything up in a while. I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to find me.
Sleep didn't come. When I opened my eyes, I found myself in a cubicle in the Emergency Room. I turned my heavy head from side to side, looking for my mom. No one was there with me. Just then, I heard my mom speaking to someone quietly, just outside my room. She came in a minute later, and seemed happy to see that I was awake. Until I looked around frantically and indicated that I thought I was going to be sick again. She held the bucket for me, and wiped my chin. "I'm thirsty" I said. She got up, and went down the hall to see if she could find someone to get me water. She came back and said that I couldn't have anything. I might need to have an ultrasound done, and had to wait to have any fluids. "Do you want a piece of gum though?" she asked, thinking maybe it would help my mouth be more moist. I nodded. "The plan is that they are going to do an enema, and see if that helps. If it doesn't, the ultrasound needs to be done". She explained what an enema was, and that it would hurt. It did hurt, but you know what felt good? Being able to laugh when the nurse told me I was quite literally full of crap.
Half awake, I could hear myself crying out. This memory is one that is prominent to me, probably because of the abuse that I felt was dealt to me. Through my half opened eyelids, I could see a short, stocky nurse approach me. "Why are you doing that?" she asked annoyedly about the moaning I was making. I closed my eyes and turned my head away, moaning again. "Why are you doing that?" she repeated. I started to cry, and she left.
The three days I spent in the hospital seemed to run together into one big blur, so I couldn't really distinguish one from the other. I got moved into an actual room sometime during the night, after my ultrasound had been done (it turned out that I shouldn't have had any gum, either). A nurse stuck me with an IV, and I was left to wait things out. Back in the Emergency Room, I had been given some medicine to help combat the nausea, so at least I was no longer dry heaving. The second day in the hospital around lunchtime, one of the nurses thought it would be ok to give me some 7UP and see if I could keep it down. I was game, so I took a few sips. It tasted really good to me, but five minutes later, when it came back up? It wasn't tasting so good. And gosh did it burn.
That same day, I was able to walk by myself to the bathroom, and up and down the hallways every now and then. I was feeling much better, except for when a nurse came in to weigh me at three A.M. Or when a machine decided it needed to be checked late at night. On the second night there I was able to get a good sleep in though, and that helped immensely. After the 7UP incident, I waited a while to eat, but in the late afternoon on my second day there I was able to keep some yummy custard down. I was also served some fruity Ensure, which wasn't so yummy. I am more of a real food kind of girl.
After a hearty breakfast of juice, peanut butter toast, milk, and fruit, my doctor gave me the go ahead to be released. Home sounded pretty good by now. My mom packed up all of the stuff that she had ended up bringing during my stay, I got my IV removed, and we headed home.
One of the first things I did when I got home was look for food. There were some slices of pizza on the counter, so I grabbed one and started to eat it cold. In the next few days, I found a new appetite that couldn't be sated. I ate all the time. Obviously this was a good thing since I was at my lowest weight to date: a measly sixty two pounds. Where before I felt like my mom needed to tell me what to eat so I could have "permission", now I ate whatever I wanted. Whatever sounded good. I felt normal again. I wasn't restricting food or calories, I was hungry when I was hungry, and that was that. Something changed in about a month though. I started to be conscious of how much I was eating, and cut back more and more. My mom realized it, and stepped in.
I didn’t mind my mom monitoring what I ate, but I felt like what she made me eat was too much, and in turn, that made me feel guilty. So, even though I had told myself I would never do this, I started to hide my food. A bit of cheese slipped into a napkin here, peanut butter scraped off with a finger there. I felt like I needed to control what I ate. Nothing was going as I had planned. I had also told myself I would never end up in a hospital. I wouldn’t make my family go through that. And yet, where had I ended up just weeks ago? Maybe my food intake was the only thing I could control. When I first saw my psychologist, she had gone down a list of questions, asking me if I did this or that, things that were typical for someone with an eating disorder to do. Most of them I had honestly answered no to, doing some of the things had never even crossed my mind. I was an abnormal anorexic, apparently. Now though, a few months later, I wondered how many of those questions I would be able to answer the same. Over time, I had developed more of the qualities represented. Maybe it was because the idea was put into my head.
Instead of putting on weight, my habits made me either lose, or maintain. Not exactly what my doctors and mom were looking for. I was thrilled though. Weight gain scared me, for no particular reason. That and calories. I knew calories were units of energy, and that my body needed them to function, but I saw them as potential fat on my body. I could try to fill my mind with logical truths, but I would always believe the illogical lies. Despite the fact that I didn’t want to grow up, and have worries, I was worrying more than the average 14 year old. I worried about food, what I would have to eat and had already eaten. I worried about exercise, and if I would get my allotted amount in that day. I worried about things no one should worry about. And it didn’t do any good anyway. But when has worrying ever done anyone any good?
The only things I looked forward to in my life were turning sixteen, so I could get a job at our towns public library, and…turning sixteen, so I could get a job at our towns public library. Having little to no ambition in life, I found it easy to think about ending my life. I would tell myself that no one would miss me while I was gone, and that actually, they would like it better so they didn’t have to look at my ugly face. I even went so far as to complain to my mom that I felt like my sisters didn’t like me. I really felt this was how it was, and she offered to talk to them about it. I told her that it would be fine if she did, as long as she didn’t tell them too much. Tell them too much as in: name my actual disorder. It was ok if they knew I was depressed, I mean, wasn’t that obvious? But I didn’t want them to have a label like anorexia that they could stick to me. I didn’t want them to know I had an eating disorder. I was weird enough to them already. So, on a night everyone was free, my mom told me I should hang out in my room for a while, and she, the girls, and dad would have a little chat. Of course, I sat right by my bedroom door, desperately trying to hear what they said for myself. I could make out a few things that were being said, but not much. At one point I heard my sister, Grace saying boldly that she didn’t hate me, she just didn’t know how to deal with me. She said I was often mean, and didn’t talk to them, so what was she supposed to do? At one point, she started to cry, and that set me to crying too. This was just so hard. I wished I could just go away, and come back when I was better. I knew the only way that could happen though, was if I was sent to a hospital in Iowa City. Which was a good hour and a half away. If I was sent there, I knew all of my eating would be monitored (so no more hiding uneaten food) and I wouldn’t be able to have any exercise. Right now I looked at going to an institution or hospital as an option, but soon, I wouldn’t be able to.
“Lydia, you’re just not gaining weight like you need to be” my nurse said to me. I looked down at the floor, concentrating on the carpets pattern. I nodded. “If you don’t start putting on weight, we are going to have to look at some other options. I really feel like being an impatient might be right for you, and even though your parents would rather not do that to you, you have to cooperate, or else there will be no choice. I don’t want to be the bad guy here, but this is reality.” Yes, this was reality. And I was now facing it. For months now, my mom hadn’t been to strict. In fact, looking back now, she was probably much too soft. She didn’t really watch me when I ate, and so I was able to get away with eating less. Sometimes I would get so mad when she was paying attention to what I ate. For example: one night during supper, my dad gave me quote a large serving of spaghetti. Now, my mom and I had talked over what I would eat, and I was supposed to have whatever amount of spaghetti my dad serve me, some green beans, and two pieces of French bread. Tears started to form in the corners of my eyes as I tried to look at my mom pointedly. I was trying to ask her if I really needed to have two slices of bread, without making a scene. I tried throughout the whole supper, and still did not catch her eye. So, I ate all of the meal. All she had said I needed to. I felt guilty and sick. And then, that night when I was getting ready to head to bed, she said the worst thing she could’ve possibly said. “Lydia, I didn’t get a chance to tell you, but since dad had given you all of that spaghetti, you didn’t have to eat that second slice of bread.” What? I was furious! I had ingested extra calories, just for her to tell me that it was all for not? “Why didn’t you tell me? I hate myself now!” I wailed. “I forgot” was all she said. “I hate myself.” I said again, and I meant it.
I realized my mom couldn’t always watch what I ate, but she didn’t even try to pay attention, and so I just started seeing how much I could get away with. I was mad, and so I fought back. I also developed some bad habits. I would see one of my sisters eating something or not eating something, and I would compare what I had eaten that day. Often, it seemed like more. I was probably blowing it way out of proportion, but I didn’t feel that way at the moment. In reality, I needed to eat more than they were anyway, because I needed to gain weight, not just maintain it. That wasn’t able to penetrate my thick skull, though. I still felt like it was unfair for me to have to eat more than my sisters. Some days I could negotiate with my brain and make myself feel ok with it, but most of the time I felt guilty. It didn’t help that sometimes my dad would say “what are you eating?” and I would get irritated and tell him, and then he would say “you like that?” Oh, how I wanted to reply that no, I actually didn’t ‘like’ it, but he and mom were in fact making me eat it , whether I wanted to or not. The way I see it now, is even though I had to go through a bunch of needless pain sometimes, I still should be thankful that I wasn’t forced to be an inpatient somewhere. Especially since when my doctor was threatening to have to send me there, it was near Christmas. I don’t know how I would’ve handled that.
One thing I enjoyed and indulged in was diet pop. Though, sometimes I questioned the fact that there were actually zero calories in it, and I made myself cut back. When we went out to eat at a restaurant, I found myself drinking so much pop, my ears would ring and I would have trouble hearing. One time, we were out at Pizza Hut with some extended family, and I was drinking my third glass of Mountain Dew. I finished it, and asked the waitress for another. When I started to suck that one down, I felt ill, and got very close to losing my pizza and gallon of pop right then and there. All of my sisters know that the only kind of pop I will drink is diet, and I think my parents do too. I don’t feel like I need those extra sugary calories that regular pop has to offer. When I shop at the grocery store, I always search for items with the lowest calorie count. Of course, the price factors in too, as I am very frugal, but the calories come before cost, often. There is a brand of bread I have found that per two slice has only one hundred calories. When I saw that, I knew it was MY bread. So, whether it is on-sale or not, I make sure to buy enough that I have a stockpile of at least a loaf at home. Every once in a while one of my family members will thaw out one of “my” loaves of bread, and I get furious. Especially when there is a loaf of full calorie bread in the freezer also. One time recently my mom used up the last of the graham crackers in the house. Now, the only thing that I will let myself have for dessert after supper is four graham crackers, so when I saw her using them, I tried hiding four in a baggie. A few minutes later she asked where the rest of the crackers were, and I begrudgingly told her. She did ask if it was ok if she used the rest up, but she used them even though I said it was really not ok. I got so mad and panicky about this episode. Eventually I just told myself that I wouldn’t have any dessert, and maybe I didn’t even deserve any anyway. This incident was just a few weeks ago, so as you can see, I am still struggling to beat this monster inside of me!
I still was not putting any weight on. The first snow had come and gone. And now the second snow storm had hit. Typical Iowa winter for you. I wanted to go out and help my family shovel. I also wanted to help my sisters shovel my neighbors driveway, which was nice income. But, when I asked my mom about it she refused to let me go out in the cold. Actually, she also didn’t want me exercising at all if I didn’t have to. I had started a paper route that my brother didn’t want anymore. And even though in the summer my mom would let me ride my bike on the route, she said it was much too cold and taxing on my body to do the route by foot in the winter. So either I could let my sister do all of the route, or I could ask my grandma to drive us on the route, and I could basically sit in the car and watch Grace deliver the newspapers. I begrudgingly went along, silent tears dripping down my face. I was only going so I felt like I deserved the measly three dollars we got from doing this. Once again I hated myself. My big fat lard of a body that my mom thought was too skinny to be able to go up to a few doors and stick a newspaper in the rings. I was steaming mad. And I let that steam off by being snippy in everything I said.
It seemed everything set me off. Whether it was my older brother talking back to my parents, or one of my sisters singing, I would cringe and feel like I wanted to cry. Sometimes I did cry. I felt so out of control of my feelings, what I was eating, when I could exercise. When I had my next appointment with my nurse, she decided to put me on some medication. At this point, I had stopped seeing anyone at St. Luke’s, and was seeing a nurse practitioner at our local doctors office. She prescribed an anti-depressant to me. Although, she warned me it did have a black box warning, which meant even though I was already depressed, and maybe having suicidal thoughts, this medicine was likely to make me feel even more suicidal at first. Oh, joy! Now on top of never being happy, and always feeling like I wanted to rip someone’s head off, I would probably feel even more hopeless. I was just looking forward to a day when I could smile again…and not be faking it.
It turned out that for a while, I did feel suicidal. Extremely. But somehow I got through it. One night I was so upset, I envisioned myself walking into our kitchen and taking the sharpest knife out of the wooden block we kept them in. I thought about how I would plunge that knife deep into my chest, and how good that would feel. I imagined the suicide note I would write. I even went so far as to start composing one, but before I got too far, I ripped it to shreds. Sometimes I would cry over myself, but not for too long. I didn’t want anyone, including myself, feeling remorse over me. Christmas came, and went. I love Christmas, because it has such a magical feel to it. It’s full of so much love and giving. People are so generous around Christmas time. When I was younger, the end of each and every Christmas was mourned by me. On the night of Christmas, I would cry for one more Christmas past, and the fact that tomorrow would just be another cold wintry day. Mostly I mourned my childhood passing. I think overall, I was a very sad child. I cried after every birthday, and some nights I cried just because I was feeling especially sad. I was young, I’m talking eight or nine when I started doing this. Maybe I was scared of the childhood I was leaving behind, and the adolescence I was beginning? I actually think that is quite accurate. I was like Peter Pan, I didn’t want to ever grow up. I was afraid of what growing up would bring. Childhood had seemed so nice and simple, I didn’t want to have to leave it behind. Maybe this is why I started to starve myself, to stop this aging process that is only natural. I sure had done it. I looked more like a ten year-old than a thirteen going on fourteen year old.
Some nights I would lay in bed, running my hands over my hipbones that jutted out, and circling my fingers around my thighs. Reveling in how thin I was. Astonished that my heart kept beating, day after day. Some days I got so exhausted, that I just felt like going to sleep and never waking up. I didn’t tell anyone this kind of stuff though. I mean, sometimes my doctor would ask if I had suicidal thoughts, but I would usually lie. If I was going to kill myself, I wanted to actually be able to do it, and not get locked up first. I wanted to die, but I wasn’t brave enough to actually act on that.
After a really bad winter, Spring couldn’t come fast enough. Spring flew by, and soon enough it was summer, my favorite time of year. On the day that our towns pool opened, my dad went and got a family pass for us. I was excited, if only for the fact that the pool was open…and that meant that summer had officially started…well, that’s what it meant to me at least. I still fit into my swimsuit from last year ( the one I was trying on when this all started) and so I didn’t have to worry about finding a modest swimming outfit for this year. The first couple of times that my sisters went, I just went to supervise, but didn’t actually go in. The air always felt too chilly to me. Probably because I was so dang skinny! On about the fourth time there though, I decided to give swimming a try again. My mom had come with us today, and while she lounged in a chair, I went down a couple of the water slides. I swam a little bit, enjoying the chance to burn off some extra calories. About half an hour into my swimming I got bored. And cold. So I got out of the pool and took a warm shower, leaving my swimsuit on. I joined my mom at the lounge chairs, and pulled out the book I was currently reading. Kids walked past, chatting and laughing. A few settled near us. A boy about my age glanced at me, and I just ignored him. A few minutes later, I got up to get some sunglasses out of my bag ,and he said loud enough for me to hear “what, are you anorexic or something?” I couldn’t be sure if he was talking to me, but the more I thought about it, who else could he be talking to? How heartless I thought, as tears spilled from my eyes.
That incident has stuck with me until now, obviously. It hurt. Yeah, I was anorexic, but did he have to say that to me, someone he didn’t even know? Now I’ve had more experience with boys, and I realize that most, unless they are quiet by nature, voice their annoying opinion whether it is appropriate or not. Yes, I am bitter. More on this later.
I went to another appointment at the doctor’s office, and was told that unless I started to gain weight, I would have to go to an institute. My mom was totally against that, so she pushed me to eat more by adding several snacks throughout the day. I still figured out ways to off set the calories intake though. I would dilute my milk, or if I couldn’t dilute it, use 1% instead of whole. Eventually my mom caught on, and I panicked. What would happen if I started to drink whole milk three times every day? I would gain weight, that was for sure. I needed to find a way to not have to drink all of that whole milk. The next time I had to have milk, I put up a fight. I refused to drink any. I said I didn’t like the taste (which was semi-true). She asked me if I would drink it if it were 2%. I said maybe, but I knew in my heart that I would still be diluting it at every chance I got. My theory was, why not? I might as well eat less if I could. Then maybe when I ate something later I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. I got into habits that I couldn’t break. If we happened to run out of a certain food, I would panic and start to pull at my hair. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on whatever I was doing (usually reading) and I would just think the same thing over and over “I’m not going to eat anything but…” fill in the blank. My mom would tell me that since we didn’t have a certain food, I would have to eat something else, and I would start to cry, because most of the time whatever I had to eat instead would have more calories.
On my fourteenth birthday, I decided to go to Cedar Rapids and meet my grandma that lived in that town. We met at the food court in a mall, and we all got Subway. I had brought along some homemade bars that I had baked that day. They were going to be my “cake”. I was actually not too worried about having to eat one. Recently, it seemed I wasn’t as obsessed with what I had to eat, or was eating. We ate our sandwiches, and I cut up the bars. It was a new recipe, and everyone commented on how good and chewy they were. I kind of enjoyed mine, I found. That was a good feeling! I figured that now that I was fourteen, I should get my act together and act more mature. What 14 year- old is afraid of food? Apparently this one. No matter how hard I tried to shake my obsession and fear, it still clung to me like bad body odor.
I tried to be a good girl. I didn’t want my mom to worry about me, and what I was going through. I knew that when I tried to hide food, it made her anxious. One time I just decided not to pour myself a glass of milk to go with supper. I didn’t want it, and decided I didn’t need it. She realized about half way through the meal that I hadn’t gotten any milk, and she signaled to me to pour myself one, her gaze burning a hole in the area where a glass would sit before me. I shook my head discreetly. I was standing firm this time. No. Milk. She kept trying to give me subtle hints, without raising a ruckus about what exactly was going on. , I still hadn’t wanted any of my siblings to know what was going on, so they didn’t. Only my mom and dad knew what was going on, and my dad mostly let my mom deal with it. Finally my mom got up and stalked out to the living room, calling for me to come join her. I took another bite of my dinner, and my dad gave me a warning look. I got up and went to the living room. Fine, I would humor her. Right when I walked into the room she told me to go pour myself a glass, or else she would. I started to cry. “No” I said. “You aren’t going to keep pulling this stuff on me, Lydia. Either you pour yourself some milk, or I will.” I shook my head. “I can’t do it”. “You can and you will” she said forcefully. Then she went back to the kitchen and sat back down to eat. I stayed out in the living room, crying softly. “Lydia, come back out and eat, please.” My dad said. When I didn’t come out, he came out and asked me what was going on, and when I told him, he said mom was right, I needed to get my milk, and then sit down. Resignedly, I went out to the kitchen and poured out a cup of milk. I didn’t even try to dilute it or snag some 1%. I knew when I had been beat.
Some days I felt like I had nothing to wake up for. I couldn’t wait for the day when I would be able to get a job, and actually feel like I mattered in the world. I felt worthless. My doctor kept encouraging me to talk to someone, anyone, about these feelings, but I didn’t really want to. Finally someone suggested a shrink that was in our town, up at the hospital actually. I wasn’t really sure why I had not been told of this opportunity to talk to someone in our town, but I was already aware of how screwed up our hospital in town was, so whatever. My mom took me to the first scheduled appointment, and she was called into the room first. About fifteen minutes later (I was glad I brought a book) she came out, and the psychologist, Connie, asked me to follow her back. She asked me the usual questions, the ones I was sick of. Did I do this, or that? How long had I had certain feelings? The first session lasted maybe forty five minutes. That was fine by me, as it was cutting into my snack time. We made an appointment for the next week and left. My mom asked me what I thought about the appointment, and I told her I thought it went pretty well…of course it was just my first time meeting this lady, who knew what could happen, right? Right?
The week flew by, and before I knew it I was back at the hospital to see Connie. This time my mom just stayed out in the waiting room while I went back for my session. I hadn’t really been in a good mood that week, and I just wanted to get out of there, so when asked questions, I answered them as concisely as possible. This lady was starting to annoy me! I think she could tell I was getting irritated, because all of a sudden she asked if I wanted to play a game. Maybe she thought it would lighten the mood. I shrugged, not really caring, but also not really wanting to play one. I didn’t really like games. Since I didn’t make a decision, Connie decided to. She pulled Sorry! off of the shelf. “Let’s play this” she said. I didn’t know what to say. She started to pull the pieces out of the box. “Um, I really don’t remember how to play this.” I said. “Oh, it’s easy enough to teach you.” Great, I was stuck playing a game. I just wanted to go home! “I really don’t want to play” I said, my voice catching. “It’s ok, we won’t play long”. she said as she dealt me my cards. “I don’t really want to play”. I said, trying to get the point across. It wasn’t working. “Let’s just play one round”. Ugghhh, I was getting mad. “I DON’T WANT TO PLAY”. I finally said with force, tears spilling from my eyes. Connie looked up, “what’s wrong?” “I just don’t want to play” I said. “Okay, we don’t have to”. Replied Connie. She began to put away the pieces she had just set up. Relieved, I watched her, wiping the tears from my face with the back of my hand. We sat there awkwardly for a few moments. She asked me if I wanted to talk at all, and I shook my head. “All right then, you can go.” She said. I stood up, and walked out of that office as fast as I could. On the way home my mom asked how this meeting had gone. “I never want to see her again.” I said. Thank God I never had to.
After that experience, I didn’t go to another psychologist for about a year and a half. That was ok, because I never seemed to have very good experiences with them. I feel like they’re all out to get money. The bills are so ridiculous! I felt ok with not having anyone to talk to. My mom kept telling me I could tell her anything, but I didn’t really trust her. Unfortunately I have never had a good relationship with her. I used to mourn that a lot. I would see my other friends going on shopping trips or spa dates with their moms, and feel like I wanted to sob. I felt so left out. MY closest friend didn’t understand why I didn’t feel like I could talk to my mom. I really don’t know why either, but I think it has to do with the fact that the lines for communication never got set up in the first place. I never felt like she wanted to talk to me about things, and so I didn’t talk to her about them. Maybe that’s why I have so many problems, because I just tell myself I can deal with things on my own, but sometimes I just can’t.
My mom was still monitoring what I ate, per instructions of my doctor. I was staying pretty steady in my weight, and even though I knew to be healthy, I should put some meat on my bones, I couldn’t find the motivation. My mom would tell me to eat a certain amount of food, but I’d end up consuming half of the intended calories, because if she told me to make a sandwich with three slices of ham, and a slice of cheese, along with some mayonnaise slathered on…well, I would just leave the cheese off. Or leave off the mayo. Or dilute my milk. And once I did it one time, it was hard for me to rationalize eating it with the cheese, or the mayo, or drinking the full fat milk. I would keep settling for less and less, until I was back to square one.
Another hard winter came. Not only was there a lot of snow, but I wanted to exercise, and my mom wouldn’t let me shovel, and didn’t like to see me on the treadmill, so I felt like I had to sneak my workouts in. I would disappear for walks with our dog, or just on my own. Often, my dog would get off of her leash, or slip out of her collar, so I would have a loose dog running around in freezing weather. And I had to try to find her. I must’ve looked like a mad woman, running up and down blocks with a leash in my hand, no dog on the end. Several times a neighbor would step onto their porch and watch, or even come running after my dog with me. How embarrassing.
“What do you want me to have for lunch, mom?” I asked at exactly noon. We were babysitting a young girl, and she was quite the handful. I could probably get away with some stuff today. “How about some leftover tuna casserole, and a piece of bread with butter, along with yogurt, and milk.” She replied distractedly. I headed to the kitchen to microwave some of the leftovers from last nights supper. I got sick of leftovers sometimes, but other times there was a solid week with no leftovers, and I got sick of ham sandwiches. My first deception was rinsing the cheese off of the tuna casserole. The second was not buttering my bread. Then I poured myself some 1% milk to top it all off. I would have some light yogurt along with this, and then a 130 calorie granola bar for my “dessert”. My mom was still out in the living room, and if any of my sisters saw anything they thought looked suspicious, they didn’t tell her. Even though I had gotten away with less than what I would’ve been required to eat, had my mom been watching, I felt very guilty about what I had consumed. That morning, I had eaten 2 ½ cups of Cheerios with a cup of whole milk, along with two slices of peanut butter toast. I felt like that was way too much…and topping it off with this lunch of who knew how many calories, I only had one thing on my mind: getting it out of me. I finished my lunch, and then discreetly went downstairs to the basement. I locked myself in the bathroom, and knelt by the toilet, shoving my pointer finger down my throat. I gagged a few times, but didn’t bring anything up. I tried again. Now I got a bit of bile and noodles, but nothing else. I kept trying three or four more times, with the same results. I could not make myself throw up. Dang it! I started to cry in frustration. I hated myself so much. My mom didn’t care what I ate anyway, heck, she wouldn’t have even known if I didn’t eat lunch at all. No one cared. If I died, who would miss me? I really didn’t believe anyone would.
Trying to deceive my mom was a full time job. I knew it was wrong, and I felt bad about it, but at the same time, it was one of the only things that could make me feel ok. A couple of times she confronted me about things that she suspected, and I lied more. I wasn’t a liar before this. I had lied maybe twice intentionally. My conscience was overwhelmed. On one hand, I knew lying was wrong. But on the other, I thought it was the only way for me to feel ok with myself. I knew the fact that I lied about what I did or didn’t eat bothered my mom, but it bothered me too. I felt like if she wouldn’t make me eat so much, then I would have no cause to lie, because I would be ok with what I ate. Unfortunately at the point where I was back then, I really don’t think I would be ok with what I ate unless it was just fruit and vegetables. Even then I found things to feel guilty about. Bananas had a lot of calories! Well, maybe, compared to a green bean. If I was in my sane frame of mind, I knew that I couldn’t live off of just vegetables and fruit, but in my dreams I could.
My dreams started to get worse and worse. I had dreams where my parents yelled and screamed at me because I wouldn’t eat what they wanted me to. In other nightmares, my mom told me she didn’t love me anymore. Sometimes I would wake up with tears streaming down my face, and other times I felt like I could’ve been screaming in my sleep. Maybe I actually was, though when I asked my mom about it, she said he never heard a thing.
I’ve mentioned before that I was looking forward to my sixteenth birthday. I was kind of, but I was also scared because I knew that sixteen year olds are expected to take Drivers Ed. When I took my test for my permit, I failed five times before I succeeded. That experience terrified me, and now I might be expected to actually drive a car, and take even more tests? No. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t going to be able to hold up. I decided to look into taking a driving test when I was eighteen, and getting my license for free, except for the licensing fee. Sure enough, my home school supervising teacher’s daughter had done that, and even though she failed once, she reported that it WAS free. That was a big deciding factor for me. I like to keep a tight hold on my money, though if I am buying a gift or surprise for someone else, I will spend anything. I think my problems with spending money might come from how I perceive my self-worth. I don’t value myself very highly, so I don’t buy myself nice things, or treat myself very often. Sometimes I buy big things for myself…like every thirteen years or so. I bought myself the laptop I am writing this story on a few years ago, for about $200. And I am looking into buying a car for myself soon. Other than that it’s just little things here and there that I buy. Gum, soda, a sandwich from Subway. A purse or some shoes (secondhand of course). Maybe it’s in my genes, to be frugal. My grandpa lives in a flat in Chicago, and he hardly owns anything. Some clothes, a sleeping bag. Pots and pans, and food. That does it for him. No car, he just walks everywhere. I think we would get a long well, but he and my grandma got divorced a long time ago, and I have never met him.
When I was about seven years old, I really got to thinking about grandparents, and my lack of them. Or at least of the male gender. I would cry about it late at night, I thought it was so unfair that I didn’t have any grandpas. All of my friends had a leas two. My mom’s mother got divorced when my mom was still a little girl, and my dad’s father had died in 1991. Two years before I was born. I never had the privilege to meet my grandpa on my dad’s side, obviously. And my other grandfather lived in Illinois and wanted nothing to do with us. I almost felt like I missed my grandfathers, even though I had never known them. Some nights, around ten or eleven, I would be lying in my bed and thinking about all of this, and I would just start to sob. I would feel this hole in my heart that was there as a space for my grandpa’s that I didn’t have any to fill. I don’t think anyone but me knows about this, to this day. Well, now you do too. Even though there was no reason for me to be an especially sad child, I was. I was a very sorrowful one.
Every day my mom had me eat a granola bar for my dessert at lunch. One day I decided that the whole bar was too much to eat, so I thought I would see if I could get away with something. I opened one of the granola bars, and took it out of the plastic sleeve. Then I broke off a piece of the bar, and set it aside. I slipped the remaining piece of the snack bar back into the wrapper. There, now it looked like the whole bar was in the package, but really there was only two thirds in it. So as long as no one looked too closely at the bar before I ate it, I would eat less than usual and no one would be the wiser. That worked for a while, until my mom noticed that when I “opened” the packaging, it was already open. And that the wrapper seemed a bit too big for the amount of bar in it. Caught, granola bar in hand.
My sixteenth birthday came, and with it me being hired at the Manchester Public Library. I had had this job secured for about a year now. For a few years I volunteered off and on at the library, so I had a foot in the door there. Training went well, a boy had been hired a few weeks before I had, and so a few times I was paired with him to learn things. I worked my first Saturday on my own, and that went smoothly. Before I knew it, I had a steady job working Mondays, Wednesdays, and every other Saturday. This excited me, because for the past few months I had just been feeling restless, and like I needed to get out of the house and do something somehow. Even just working a few days a week was enough of an escape for me. I worked 5-8 on the weekdays and so that involved taking my supper to the library with me. My mom told me she expected me to take a sandwich, and something else to eat. I, of course, didn’t want to take anything more than the sandwich. Actually, I didn’t even want to take the sandwich. See, my mom had been supervising what I ate for a while now, and I had a hard time eating things if my mom wasn’t watching me. I was mad if she wasn’t watching me eat, even if she was in the room. I was so insecure about what I ate, thinking it was too much, always too much. I did eat my sandwiches though. I told my mom I would eat those, but I probably wouldn’t eat anything else, even if my mom forced me to take it along. Two slices of wheat bread, a slice of American cheese, three pickles, mustard, and 3 thinly sliced pieces of ham. That was what my sandwich consisted of. Usually I toasted the bread, I liked the texture. I also like the fact that mustard and pickles had little to no calories. One time after I had had a particularly hard day, my mom and dad confronted me, telling me I really needed to start eating more. My dad said “I’ve seen how you make your sandwiches, Lyd, not much meat, a piece of cheese, and tons of mustard and pickles. We all know why you put those on there, Lyd.” I looked at him and scowled “yeah, because I like the taste”. “No, because you don’t want to put other things on there that actually have fat in them!” My dad said sourly. I was thinking tons of things, but not saying them. Ugh, I was so tired of my parents accusing me of things that they had no proof behind. How did they know anything about why I ate what I did? They didn’t. It was at times like this that I almost felt ok about when I deceived them.
The boy that worked at the library on alternating nights with me asked me a question I never thought I would ever be asked. Ever. One day I walked in to check my hours, and he was working, as it was after 5:00. Angie, the children’s room librarian was there, just getting ready to leave, as was Ellen, a former children’s room aid. Ellen was in college, still is. And I swear David, my co-worker, had some kind of an affair going on with her. More on that later. Anyway, I walked into the room, everyone said hi…I checked what needed checking, and thought I would be on my way. David started talking to me though, and I got stuck there for a bit. Angie and Ellen started acting kind of weird, and finally said they were going to leave. I said good bye and then David sprung the question. “Do you want to go to the prom with me?” I was baffled…the prom? With him? He was two years older than me…and what would my parents say? These were some of the thoughts floating around in my head. “Wow, um, I guess I’ll have to ask my parents…they kind of shelter me, but I guess I’ll ask.” I said. He went on to tell me that he had asked another girl I knew, and she had just looked at him like he was crazy, jaw on the floor. I was kind of suspicious when he told me that, because I mean…did that tell me I was just his last resort? I didn’t really care though, I had just been asked to the PROM!!
I floated all the way home (I had walked to the library) and when I got to my house, I found I didn’t have the nerve to ask my parents if I could go yet. I relished the thought of going to something special like that. Right at that moment, I wasn’t beautiful by a long shot. I had plucked every single one of my eyelashes from my eyelids, and almost all of my eyebrows too. I pulled out any hair I could get to when I got anxious. This is called trichotillomania. Yeah, I know, right? Another disease? And of course I had it. Why not, I might as well be as messed up as possible. So, I was not pretty to say the least. People could try to tell me I was, but I wouldn’t believe them. I knew the truth. The first thing I did was make a promise to myself that I would stop plucking my hair, right at that moment. No more. This resolution didn’t last for long though, I just got fidgety! And when I was nervous I just automatically reached for my eyelashes. My mom had noticed, and she had confronted me about it, I just told her the truth. She asked me if I could find something else to do with my hands when I felt like I needed to pull my hair, and I tried that, I tried sitting on my hands, holding a bouncy ball and squeezing it…it didn’t work. I finally got around to telling my mom I had been asked to prom, and while she seemed happy for me, I knew in my heart I would never be allowed to go. She said I needed to talk to dad about it, and I did. He said they would talk it over, and I left it at that. Sure, I kind of wanted to go, but with David? I didn’t really know.
My mom asked me just that question. If I went, would I want to go with David? Would I feel comfortable with him since I didn’t even know him that well? I said I didn’t really know. A few days later my parents told me the verdict: they weren’t letting me go. I cried, but in the long run, I think it’s ok that I ended up not going. It was awkward having to tell him I couldn’t go, but I got over it, and things went back to normal. Well, the normal that I was used to. A few times after that, I happened to be at the library when David was, and we had a few conversations. I found he was really easy to talk to, which I thought was nice in a guy. I became his friend on Facebook, and sometimes we’d chat on there. I wasn’t in the market for a boyfriend at the moment, I was focused wholly on what I could do to try to get better. My job at the library was going smoothly, except for a few trouble spots with my suppers I was expected to bring along with me. It started out I decided that two pieces of bread for my sandwich was too much, so I would pack up two pieces of bread, but only eat one, and then when I got home from work I would just put the slice of bread back in the sack with the loaf. Then I realized that I didn’t need three slices of ham with my sandwich, so I started packing two slices when I could, though sometimes my mom would notice that I only packed two, and I had to bluff. I became an expert at nonchalance. She would ask to check my supper pack, and I had to either slip another piece of ham in when she wasn’t looking (so I wouldn’t be reprimanded) or when she noticed I had only two pieces, I had to pretend that I thought there had actually been three. One time I tried to get away with packing no cheese, and she caught me on that too. But sometimes if it was an especially hectic afternoon, she wouldn’t remember to check with me, and then I would silently scold myself for not just packing a piece of bread and the condiments. I remember one night, I was working and had made my sandwich up, and David came in to get a coat he had forgotten the night before. I had my sandwich in the back workroom and it was sitting on a long countertop/desk. I had taken maybe two bites out of it. It was just a fold over sandwich, and it had probably come unfolded and he could probably see what it consisted of. He didn’t say anything though, and it was only later that I realized he had probably seen it and wondered what kind of food this creepy girl ate. The answer: as little as possible.
It seemed that every week was a struggle for me. I had to work two days, and then every other weekend I worked a Saturday. On Saturdays at the library, we got a half hour lunch break. Because I wasn’t comfortable eating by myself without my mom seeing that I actually ate it, I would await 11:30 anxiously, and then, when another employee came to relieve me of my duties, I would snatch up my coat (if I needed one) and dash up the stairs leading to the children’s room. I set my stopwatch on my wristwatch, and started jogging toward the stoplight on the corner, hoping that either there weren’t many cars coming…or that the light would change fast. Because I was going across as soon as I could. Sometimes I didn’t even wait for cars, I just saw a break and went for it. I only had a half hour after all. Once across the street, I ran and ran as fast and as far as I could. Usually I could make it several blocks. Once I was about a block from my house I would slow to a trot. I could get to my house in about four minutes, and once there I breathlessly asked my mom what she expected me to eat that day. Then I would proceed to prepare it as fast as I could. Usually it was some sort of leftovers, but some days it would be a ham pita, or a chicken sandwich. I would sit at the table and eat quickly, sometimes hardly tasting my lunch. When about twenty minutes were up, I would head back to the library, walking this time. A couple of times my fellow librarians would ask me if I went all the way home for my lunch, and I would defensively answer that yes, I did in fact. At the time it seemed only logical, because I absolutely could not eat without my mom monitoring. Eventually I would get to a point where I would show her what I was packing ,and just eat it. I realized I needed food, and she couldn’t always be there to see. Somehow I got past all of that, though it took a long time. I learned to figure out how to trust my body, that it wouldn’t go blobbing out on me, or betray me in some other gross humiliation. I still couldn’t trust it in the appetite area though, or at least I didn’t think I could. I would try to be aware of when my body told me to eat, and when to stop, but it was hard. I always felt like I was trying to deny myself food, and so it was just easier if I had a set amount to eat. The only problem was, I didn’t like my mom setting the amount, because I felt like it was too much.
Having friendships is hard when you have anorexia. It’s almost as if the eating disorder becomes your closest friend and confidant. Rather than go to a friends house and hang out, I would prefer to stay at home and read. I didn’t want to go to other people’s houses, because they always offered me food, and I knew I wouldn’t allow myself to eat anything, so I would end up looking weird, and being hungry. The few times I did go to a friends house, my mom assured that I would only be there for a few hours, and it wouldn’t overlap with the times I had to eat something. Or she tried to. But it never seemed to work out as planned. I would always end up having to stay a few hours longer, because my friends mom, who was my ride back to my house, would lose track of time. And it would look stupid if I asked to go home. Wouldn’t that imply that I wasn’t enjoying myself? So usually I would just wait out my hunger, and when I finally got back to my house, I’d try to get out of eating things using the excuse that it was “so close to supper”. Usually my mom found a way to convince me to eat what I had to though. Honestly, I knew I wanted to eat the food, because it tasted good. But it made me feel so bad. I just didn’t know how to get rid of that feeling of guilt and fatness. I didn’t know how to deal with my own feelings in a healthy way.
Eventually, my mom decided I needed to see someone that I could talk to about my feelings, and maybe even help me sort out the how’s and whys of my disorder. At my next doctors appointment, she asked if there was anyone in our town, and apart of our hospital that could see me and counsel me. Come to find out, there were in fact two people at our hospital who were psychologists. MY doctor offered to talk to them and see if one would be willing to work with me, but one was a man, so I ruled him out, as I didn’t feel like I would be comfortable talking to him. At my next appointment, which was about four weeks later, my doctor reported back that he had talked to the woman and she would be willing to work with me. She didn’t specialize in eating disorders by any means, but she thought she might be able to help me sort stuff out. Once my doctors appointment was over, we went home, and my mom made an appointment with the psychologist for as soon as I could be fit in. The earliest slot was in two weeks, and I personally did not care. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone about how I felt, but I knew I probably should. I was still having feelings of guilt, and that I would never get over this, never be good enough. Maybe this woman would be able to help me through those thoughts, and assist me in replacing them with thoughts that would build me up, not tear me down.
My first appointment was in the first week of September. My mom came with me, and listened as Mary (the shrink) asked me the typical questions, and wrote my answers down. Then, Mary asked me to step outside the room while she spoke to my mom privately. I complied, and about three minutes later, Mary called me back in and I sat down. She then asked what date would work best for our next meeting, and as I had no preference, I let her and my mom sort it out. They set my next appointment for two weeks from that day, and we said goodbye. On the ride home, my mom asked me how I felt about Mary, and I replied that she seemed ok. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk. Not that I ever was, but especially after a doctors or psychologist appointment. Usually I ended up getting annoyed at one or the other of the adult, because they would talk about me as if I weren’t in the room, or ask me the same question over and over. I just wanted to be left alone, and I told my mom that on several occasions, but she insisted that I had to be seeing someone, since I was still “sick”.
David, my co-worker at the library, had left for college in August, and sometimes we would chat on Facebook. One day I decided to email him, just because I was feeling like I needed a friend, and he was easy to talk to. He didn’t reply, though I checked my email daily. Finally about a week after I sent my email, I opened my inbox to see that he had finally sent me an email back! I was excited. I hadn’t had interest in boys for over two years, as I was too focused on myself to notice much of the world around me. But now I realized that it felt good to be noticed by a guy. My emailing wasn’t flirting, it was just friendly conversation. We emailed back and forth, and soon I was going to the library daily to check and see if he had thought of me that day. Usually there was a note from him, and I quickly sent back a reply. One day, I got really excited because when I opened my email, there was one from him, and he asked me if I wanted to go to the first football game of the season, since he would be home form college on that weekend. I eagerly replied that yes, I would enjoy that, because I had never really been to a football game before. Unless, of course, you count the times as a pre-teen that my mom or dad would walk up to the football field with some of us kid and watch the game from outside the fence. He thought that was pretty weird that I had never been to a football game, and so he said that we would have to go for sure. Friday came, and I was pretty excited at the prospect of going to a football game. With a boy at that! At noon, when my dad got home for his lunch break, I told him that I was going to be going to the football game that night with David. When I told him this, I saw him exchange a look with my mom. I knew he thought there was something more going on between David and I, but there wasn’t. Even though I hoped maybe there would be someday. I actually prayed about it. But that night, we were going to the game as just friends, and I was satisfied with that. I thought David was pretty cool. My viewpoint has changed now, but I will expound on that later. We decided that we would meet up at the football field, and I headed up there around 7 o’clock. I spotted David pretty quickly, and we said hi, he then invited me to come meet some off his friends, so we wandered around and said hi to some of his former high school friends. The game started and we made our way to some bleachers at the end of the field. The bleachers were cold, and I hadn’t really worn the most appropriate clothing for this outing. I had jeans and a sweatshirt on, but they didn’t do much to cut the chill of the September night air. Before halftime, I was shivering, my teeth chattering. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t have any fat on my body, but I couldn’t do anything to change that at the moment. When halftime did roll around, David asked me if I was cold (couldn’t he tell?!) and I said yes. He admitted that he was too, and so he decided that after the band performed he would just head home. I thought that was kind of a waste of money on the ticket, but I was cold, and so I decided to head home too. We walked to the entrance, and said goodbye awkwardly, going our separate ways. My house isn’t far from the field, and his isn’t either, so we had both walked. I was thinking it would’ve been nice if he had asked if I wanted a walk home, but whatever. I walked home, and thought the night over. He had been pleasant enough to talk to, though I went for the more manly type. I tried to shove all romantic thoughts out of my head, he was clearly only looking for friendship, and if I wanted more, I would have to look somewhere else.
At my next appointment with Mary, we delved a little deeper into the history of my anorexia, and what might have caused it. She asked lots of questions, and I really started to open up. I was almost disappointed when my scheduled amount of time was up. We agreed to meet in two weeks, and I hoped that at that time, I would be in as good of a mood as I had been today. Often I was tired, or just annoyed, and I didn’t really feel like talking about how I felt. Sometimes I just felt like keeping my thoughts and emotions to myself, because I knew no one else really cared, they just knew that talking might help. When I had doctors appointments, I would sometimes be really rude to my doctor, because I just was not in a good mood. And it really bothered me how I had a scheduled appointment, and yet I would sit up there waiting for my doctor for a good forty-five minutes before he came in. It made me feel like I didn’t matter, and that ,my time was not valuable to him. I knew that he had a lot of patients to see, but I was important too. He should at least try to keep semi on schedule. Sometimes my mom would even call up to the clinic to see if my doctor was behind, and they usually said he was running pretty much on time. One day my mom got all over me about not being polite to the doctor or the nurse. I broke down and just started to sob, saying she didn’t know how hard it was to go to the doctor, and not even want to. I knew that still didn’t make how I acted right, but I hated how much time I wasted up at that office.
Through my sessions with Mary, I was able to figure quite a few things out about why certain things had happened. Statistics show that most anorexics don’t have very strong relationships with their parent (s). I had never really focused on that information much, but as I talked more, and put ideas out there for her to work with, I realize that maybe I didn’t have that great of a relationship with either of my parents. When I was about five, every morning my sisters and brother and I would go downstairs to my dads workshop and talk, swing on a homemade trapeze bar, color, or just sit and watch the goings on. We would get up early, around six, just for this. It was a special time, and to make it even more appealing was the fact that my dad had a stash of cinnamon graham crackers in his shop, and some mornings if we asked nicely, he would let us have a few, if we ate them over a paper towel. Some mornings it was just one of us that showed up at my dads door, and then we would do any of the things I mentioned before, or he might read us a book. I was always uncomfortable when I was the only one that happened to be up. It sounds weird, but I don’t think I knew who my dad was. Sure, I knew he lived in the same house as me, and he ate lunch and supper with us, but he wasn’t around most of the day and I didn’t ever feel like I got to know him as well as I knew my mom. I guess I was confused about who exactly this tall dark man was! One day I told my parents that I didn’t think I really knew who my dad was when I was younger, and that it was only once I was about nine or ten that I put together that he was my dad. My parents don’t believe me on this, which I understand. How could a girl go for so many years not knowing who her own dad was? I don’t know, but I do know I was terrified of him for quite a while. Sometimes I would go downstairs early in the morning and I could hear my siblings talking inside the workshop, but I would hesitate to knock on the door, because I was worried he would get mad at me. Now I realize that one of my many fears is not being accepted, and another is making people mad.
I am a people pleaser, I don’t like to shake the boat. I will go out of my way to make someone else happy, but when it comes to me personally, I don’t treat myself very well. If someone gives me an option of activities to do, I am very indecisive because I want to choose what everyone else would like best. I can remember buying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at Wal-Mart, and always offering to share them with someone else, or even dividing one of the little cups up into slivers and letting others partake. I don’t like to say this, but I think I have always had a generous spirit. I also like to give in secret. If I see or hear of someone in need, I often feel it put on my heart to do something for them. Even if it’s just baking up a batch of muffins for elderly people in my neighborhood, I like to give. I feel good when I give, and even better when no one except for me knows I did it. There is an organization called Operation Christmas Child, and our family would put together shoeboxes filled with toys for children in third- world countries. We did this every year, and I enjoyed doing it. In the past few years though, I have stopped putting any of my tithe towards it. I have felt that God is calling me to give to those in closer proximity to me. OR maybe I’m just selfish and like to be able to directly see the fruits of my labors. I think giving is something that helps a person heal from any sickness. When someone tries their hardest to help make another persons day better, they aren’t focusing as much on their own troubles, or feeling sorry for themselves all the time. Doing good for others is something that helps divert attention from your bad situation. My mom would often tell me to try to do something with my time, instead of just sitting around moping. I don’t think I ever spent too much time in a crappy mood, but some days were worse than others.
At about this time, my mom got pregnant. My youngest sister was, at the time, eleven, so there would be a really big age gap between her and the new baby. We were all so excited though. Time seemed to go really fast, and I tried to be a little easier on my mom, knowing she had added stress with all that was going on, and I didn’t need to make it worse. The baby was due in July, and my mom’s pregnancy went smoothly right up until the end. We had gone shopping in a town nearby, a few hours after an appointment she had had. About half an hour after we got over there, she got a phone call from her doctor, saying he had looked at the ultrasound he had done, and he needed her to come in as soon as possible. Come to find out, she had some fibroids that were complicating matters, and might cut off air supply for the baby if she didn’t deliver soon. She went into the hospital at four, and by eight that night, she had a new baby son named Lee. He was tiny, and had trouble eating at first, but eventually he caught on, and brought a lot of joy as we all learned how to be a good family once again for a new child.
Work didn’t take up as much time as I sometimes wished it would, but soon enough I had something else to fill up my time. A boyfriend. One day I had been praying about David and I, and when I checked my email, I saw he had written me. So, I decided to take a chance and ask him if when he had asked me to go to prom with him if he really liked me, or if he just wanted someone to go with. I eagerly awaited his reply, and started doubting, thinking that I had scared him away by asking such a sensitive question. A few hours after I had sent the email, I checked my inbox again. He had sent me a reply. Relief flooded through me. Now to read it. I was nervous, and thought it was sort of silly to have even asked him since he was away at college and I was a couple hundred miles away. He started out talking about something random, and it wasn’t until the second paragraph that he mentioned something about what I had asked. Of course I skipped the first part of the email and went straight to the part where he had answered me. He wrote “Well, I kind of like you, but mostly I just wanted to ask if you wanted to go to prom since I knew you’d never get a chance normally.” Ok, that didn’t really tell me much. Did he really like me, like me, or did he want to be just friends? How would I be able to figure this out without looking like a fool? SO, I typed a polite email back, and then at the end I asked if he really like me, or just as a friend. This was a pretty bold move on my part, since I hadn’t really known him that long and I didn’t have the greatest self-esteem in the world. I sent the message before I could have any second thoughts. I’d just have to see how it went.
The next day I checked my email and sure enough I had an email from David. I was nervous, again, as I opened it and waited for it to load. What I read excited me ,and relieved me. He had said that yes, he did like me as more than a friend. I couldn’t believe that a boy could like ME. I thought I was pretty un-likeable. I quickly wrote back, but didn’t really mention what he had said. I didn’t want to make a really huge issue out of it, even though I pretty much already had. I just told him thanks for being honest, and left it at that. The next night I got onto my computer, and saw that David was on Facebook. I started up a chat with him, asking him how he was doing. We chatted back and forth for a while, and then somehow I asked him if he wanted to date. He said sure, he was game. So I changed my relationship status on Facebook to “in a relationship”. The next morning when I got on Facebook I saw that David had changed his relationship status too. Some of his friends had commented on it, saying they couldn’t believe it. Apparently he wasn’t the type to be in a relationship? Well, we’d show them.
David kept apologizing that he couldn’t come home more, because he knew it was hard, and kind of weird, having your significant other be away from you almost all the time. He kept saying to think about the summer, and that we would have plenty of time together then. It was almost winter though, and it was hard to see that far ahead and feel happy about it. It was much easier to get stuck on the here and now, and feel sorry for myself because my boyfriend wasn’t around to hang out with. I’d see other couples and wonder if David and I would be like that. Would we hold hands as we walked down the die walk, and would we hug at every chance we got? Would we be constantly teasing each other about the quirky little things we did? I didn’t know, but I could hardly wait to find out. He would be coming home for Thanksgiving, and I would finally get to hang out with him for the first time since we had started dating. Our relationship was actually pretty pathetic.
Thanksgiving weekend came, and David arrived back home to Manchester. He got home around Noon on Thursday, but I was at my aunt and uncle’s house, so I couldn’t see him right away. When I got home from our celebration, I texted him and he asked me if I wanted to come over to his house. I checked with my parents, and when they finally agreed, he came and picked me up and we went to play videogames. I told him my dad wanted me to be home by 10:00, and he said that was fine. When we got to his house, he introduced me to his parents, and then we headed downstairs to play a videogame he really like called Oblivion. He tried to show me some things he thought were cool, but I pretty much sat on the floor getting a back ache, because how fin is it to just watch someone play a videogame? I wasn’t impressed. I thought it was kind of selfish of him, but I quickly pushed that thought out of my mind as it was our first night of actually being together. The clock crept closer to ten, and David was my ride home. I knew I should say something, but I felt kind of embarrassed to interrupt his fun. Finally I looked down at my watch in what I thought was a discreet way, and he got the picture. Though, it was 9:55, and that would give us only five minutes to get to my house. Hmmm, this guy seemed promising. As he drove me to my house he said he hoped my parents wouldn’t be mad, and I assured him that they wouldn’t be, even though I was privately thinking that this wasn’t a very good start to forming trust with my parents. When I got inside, my dad made kind of a big deal about how I was late, but I explained what had gone on. He just said “don’t let it happen again.” Unfortunately, it did.
After Thanksgiving, I didn’t see David until December 5th. He had invited me to a band banquet in Ames, and somehow I talked my dad into taking me all the way there on a cold December night. I bought a cheap dress, and we made the long drive over. My dad dropped me off at David’s dorm, and I went into his room and met his roommate. Then David changed into his suit, and we went over to a community center so I could change in the bathroom there. I changed in a stall, and tried to get the wrinkles out of my polyester dress as best I could. I slipped on my high heels, and rounded the corner out of the bathroom. David was standing at a table and looking at a newspaper. When he looked up and saw me he said I looked beautiful. I just kind of brushed this compliment off. He probably just felt like it was required of him to say that, since he was my boyfriend. I followed him down a flight of stairs to the main level of the community building, trying not to wobble to much on my heels. It was my first time wearing them, except for when I had played dress-up as a child. We met up with some of his friends in the lobby, and from there we walked outside and about the equivalent of one city block over to a hall on the Iowa State campus. It. Was. Cold. I was wearing a short dress, heels, and a winter coat. By the time we got to the building, my legs were so numb I couldn’t feel them. I had tried to walk fast to keep up with David’s long legged strides and to keep warm, but it didn’t really help with the warmth factor. The fact was, it was below twenty degrees outside, and I just wasn’t dressed appropriately. At least it wasn’t snowing. Yet.
David and I hung out with his group of friends, waiting for the banquet to start and to be called to be seated. Ten minutes passed. Finally an usher came out and said it was time to go into the dining room ,and we all tried to rush at once to get into the room. Another five minutes passed as we stood in line to be seated. Eventually we got to the table to pay for the tickets, and then were able to find a table. I was still pretty cold, so I was planning to leave my coat on for a bit, but David insisted I take it off and put it on the back of my chair. I didn’t want to make a big fuss, so I did as he told me. We sat around waiting for about half an hour for the food to be served. Finally our table was called, and we got up and went through a buffet. This was the part of the night I was most nervous about. There was chicken, garlic potatoes, cinnamon apples, rolls, steamed vegetables, and then for dessert, cake. I ate a good size piece of chicken, a wheat roll with no butter, and some potatoes. My plate was pretty empty compared to everyone else’s. Then the cake was served, and I didn’t feel like I could handle eating any, so I didn’t. I just used the excuse that I didn’t really like cake, which is true. We ate our meal in about ten minutes, so we had to sit around and twiddle our thumbs until the awards ceremony. The awards ceremony was actually very boring, and when there was an intermission, everyone seemed to want to get up and stretch or use the restroom. David and I just went out to the hallway to talk and stand for a bit. Just as we were getting ready to go back into the dining hall, my cell phone rang. It was my dad. I checked the time. Eight thirty already! As I answered the phone, I knew he was wondering if it would be ok to come pick me up. Sure enough, that’s what he asked me. I told him that the banquet wasn’t even near being over, but it was ok if we headed back home. I knew he didn’t want to have to be driving until midnight, which was how late it would get to be if he let me very much longer. When I got off the phone, I told David that I would have to leave once my dad came, which would be about ten minutes. He seemed disappointed, and I was also, but what could I do? Beg my dad to let me stay at a boring ceremony a few hours longer? Truth be told, I didn’t want to stay at the banquet longer. I did want to spend as much time as possible with David, but it looked like my time was up. There was going to be a dance around midnight, but I didn’t feel like I could ask my dad to let me stay for that. That would just be ridiculous. David and I walked back to the community center where I had changed, and we stood looking out the windows, waiting for my dad to show up. As we stood there waiting, I started to cry. I was going to miss my boyfriend while I waited for Christmas to come. Just before my dad pulled up, David told me that if we would’ve been able to stay for the dance, he had been planning on kissing me. I cried even harder, knowing what I had missed.
It was hard saying good bye since I knew I wouldn’t see him for at least half a month, but it was something I knew I had to do, so I survived. We emailed back and forth, and I could tell that on the day after David got back to college, he was pretty depressed about the fact that he had to go to school and couldn’t be with me. I got kind of depressed too, but eventually the sadness ebbed away, and the time flew by. Soon enough it was Christmas break, and he came home again. We hung out at this house mostly, because he liked to play lots of video games, and I didn’t have a console at my house. We would go down to his basement for a few hours and he would play Guitar Hero or Oblivion while I sat by and watched. Now that I think about it, it seems pretty selfish that he did that. I could tell it was something he enjoyed doing though, so I just went along with it He also like to play a card game called Yugioh. One time he tried to show me how to play, but I never really caught on. I think he liked it a lot. More than me, maybe. I fed that addiction by buying him Yugioh cards for Christmas. He got me a plush stuffed owl that I still have. We wrote some pretty sappy Christmas cards to each other, and I almost cried when I read mine. We had already told each other we loved the other, but this card pretty much reinforced that. I looked up at David and thanked him, an he said I was welcome. Then I happened to look down at my watch and see that I really should get home before I was late AGAIN. David and I put our coats and shoes on, and I wished I could slow down time. Make is pause for a few hours so David and I could just spend a few more precious minutes together. When he was away at college I missed him so much, it felt like a part of me died. When I emailed him, or chatted with him while he was away, I would often end up bawling. My heart just felt broken. Only for a few days though, and then I got over it. I hoped this was what real love felt like.
There was a long period of time between Christmas break and Spring break. It was going to be hard for both of us to be apart for so long. We had done it before of course, but it was a nightmarish feeling to know that I would have to be separated from the one I loved for such a long time. David would send me messages saying how depressed he felt, and sometimes he didn’t even want to get up in the morning. Naturally, I felt bad that I made him have these feelings, I even asked him if it would be better if we weren’t dating. He seemed to think that would only make it worse, so we both suffered through feeling sad and depressed, and wondering if this was even beneficial to us. I loved that boy so much that I wanted to be with him all the time. I even thought about marriage, and I was only seventeen. I brought up the future sometimes in our many conversations, and even though David said he thought I should follow my heart, I could tell he was bitter because he felt like his parents had forced him into going to college. He would tell me that he was with me 100% in whatever I decided to do, but then he would make comments that made me think that was only partly true. Like I would say I had no idea if I wanted to go to college or not but then he would say almost patronizingly “IF you go to college…IF you come to Iowa State…” I don’t know if it’s because I was home schooled that I have no idea what I want to do with my life, or if it’s just me, but I don’t know what my life holds. Not that any of us do. I mean, I know what I would enjoy doing, but I don’t know if I would be able to make a living off of my hobbies and enjoyments. I think many people are like that, but they go to college anyway. Instead of wasting money, I think I’ll just wait it out thank you very much. I took my tests for my GED in December and early January, and received my “diploma” in May when all the other high schoolers were graduating. I told David I had passed ,and he wasn’t even happy for me, because he was so jealous.
One redeeming fact about David going to college and not having any idea what he wants to do is that he has a full ride scholarship. But he would still complain and say that he had way too many things to spend money on, and not enough money. One time I wrote him an email and said that I was thinking about buying a car, and he got all nippy in his reply, he finally confessed that it bothered him that I was considering buying my own car. Jealous. Little things started stacking up into big things. David would get stressed out, and take his rage out on me. I would write a perfectly nice email to him and he would write back with some nasty words and no apology. That hurt, especially since he kept saying he loved me, and when he finally apologized to me later, he would make up excuses for why he acted the way he did. There is no excuse for swearing at your girlfriend, just because she asked a question you thought was a little stupid. It was hard for me to take, and sometimes I would even write a very despondent note back, just to try and make him feel bad. He should feel bad, because I was his girlfriend and had never given him cause to be mad or frustrated. I started to doubt, which is something no one wants to do, but particularly not me, because on Christmas night, David had said he had one more gift for me. And then he kissed me. Now, I was fine with this, but I guess I didn’t really think about giving my kisses away to this particular guy. I was just living in the moment, and in this moment, I was in love. I’d heard about girls saving their first kisses for their marriage day and thought that was kind of extreme, but I think I understand why they do it now. It would probably mean even more if the guy would save his lips just for his wife too though. The kiss was so quick, and then it was over and I probably could’ve missed it if I had blinked. I never really was one to enjoy hugs and kisses from parents, but I found I enjoyed displays of affection from my boyfriend. Unfortunately he must’ve felt that a minimum of showing his love would be ok.
I got through January pretty well, but David seemed to get more and more depressed. Sometimes I would try to talk to him about it, but he didn’t really want to discuss much. He just told me not to worry, but of course I did. I thought about how I could be a better girlfriend, but I didn’t see how I could be doing anything different to better our relationship. I asked him what I could do to help, and even offered to break up with him if it would help. Having t communicate through email and phone calls didn’t help matters any, but I tried. One Friday night, he called me (as he had made a habit of doing) and we talked for a while, and then there was a awkward silence where I had no idea what to say. All of a sudden he said “I have something to tell you”. I just said “Ok…”. “I’m going to come home for Valentine’s Day.” He announced proudly. “What?! Oh my gosh!!” I exclaimed. “Yeah, my mom said that she could work it out to come pick me up. I’d only be able to stay for one day, but at least I get to see you”. Tears ran down my face. “Yeah.” I replied. “Are you ok?” He asked concernedly. “Of course! I’m so happy!” “And I’ll try not to be depressed when I come home” he said. I was thinking that it would be pretty weird if he was still depressed when he came home, since the reason why he was down was because he couldn’t see me, or so he claimed. I was starting to think there was more to his sadness though. In one of our conversations, David had randomly told me that Asians have the highest suicide rate. You can imagine how relieved that made me feel. He didn’t seem to realize how the things he said had a huge impact on me. But they did.
It was the weekend after Valentine’s day that David was finally able to come home. Or so I thought. The night before he was coming, he called me and said that he didn’t know if it would actually work for him to come. The weather was supposed to get bad overnight with some ice and rain. My heart sunk, knowing that if I didn’t see him, it might not work for him to come visit anytime soon. I was so disappointed, and I was also pretty sure that we really needed to see each other. David seemed to be getting more and more depressed, and I was getting extremely worried about him. I slept fitfully, wondering what kind of weather I would awake to in the morning. When I got up, I went upstairs and saw no frost on the ground, and though it was quite cloudy, it wasn’t rainy or snowy. Around 8:30 I got a phone call from David, and he was crying, saying he was the worst boyfriend ever because he wouldn’t be able to come home. I tried to comfort him, but it did no good. Thankfully, there was a communication gap between his parents, and his mom had called him, telling him no one would be coming to pick him up, but his dad was already on the road, heading to Iowa State University. I had to work at the library on that particular weekend, and I kept imagining David walking in, and how I would rush over and hug him. It got to be noon, and I thought about how if everything would’ve worked out, he would be at the library talking to me, and setting up a date for that night. The afternoon dragged on, and I just kept feeling sorry for myself. I was shelving some books when around 1:20, David walked in the door! I looked up and saw him and just said “what are you doing here?” He smiled and told me what had gone down, and he handed me a pillow in the shape of an owl. I thought it was pretty cute at the time, and I still do, but just the other day I got rid of it, because I really didn’t want it in my life anymore.
I never knew if when I emailed David, he would reply back in a good mood, or with a snarky attitude. To be honest, I was getting tired of how he acted towards me. I was supposed to be his special someone, and he seemed to think because we were so close, he could dump everything he was feeling on me, and I would just be ok with it. But that wasn’t how it worked. I was getting overwhelmed. He had gotten a job at college, and it was at one of the convenience stores on campus. It would get really busy sometimes, and he would complain about it. Sometimes I would tell him about how busy it was at the coffee shop I had started working at in December, and I felt like he would belittle me. He would say things like “Oh, I bet it’s not as busy as the C-store gets” or “I hate making sandwiches so much, we sold at least a hundred last night”. He complained that black olives smelled, and people were too fussy about things. I love sub sandwiches, and he would always talk like they were so disgusting and how could I like them? He found he liked doing dishes, and almost every time we talked, he had to bring up the fact that he was so good at doing dishes, and he did so many, and the store always closed on time when he was the one doing the dishes. I got kind of sick of hearing his stories over and over, especially since half the time he was complaining. Then things got even worse. He was telling me about how they get free pop while they work at this place, and he told me that usually he’d fill up his cup several times throughout his shift. Then he told me that he had switched to diet pop, because it didn’t have the calories. ‘What?’ I thought. He wasn’t supposed to be concerned with calories, he never had been. But after that it seemed like every time I talked to him he mentioned something about how fat he was (he wasn’t) or about calories, or how he ate too much. This was obviously something I didn’t need. I had felt like David used to be supportive and loving towards how I felt about food, and how I was trying to heal. And now he was almost rubbing it in my face. Usually he said things about food in a joking tone, but I could tell he was actually serious. Didn’t he realize how much it hurt me when I saw him starting to restrict food? He confided in me that he used to be able to eat a whole 6-piece chicken strip basket from Dairy Queen, and now he couldn’t finish it. I thought to myself, ‘why don’t you get the four piece then?’ but kept my mouth closed. Whatever, he could act that way, and hurt me, but I would remain loyal as long as I could.
In March, my sister Grace and I went with some kids from our youth group to a youth conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The convention was called Acquire the Fire, and I had heard some pretty great things about it. There was a lineup of bands that would be there performing, and several speakers that would be preaching to the youth that came. The only thing I was worried about was the lack of exercise that would be involved. I knew I could walk a lot in the days and weeks before we left for the conference, but my mom still liked to keep tabs on my exercise, and I was afraid she would get mad at me for working out so much. I still tried to get walking in before we left, just so I could try to feel ok with myself. The conference was really awesome, and my sister and I had some really humbling experiences. It was one of those things where the things that happened were so special, you can’t explain them. But if I ever had the chance to go again, I knew I would. It was really weird knowing I was so close to David, and yet I wasn’t able to see him. I had told him where we would be, and he said he might try to come and find me, but it just never worked out. I really liked something the main speaker said, it didn’t really hit home with me, but it soon would. He said” In the Bible it talks about dogs returning to their own vomit. Vomit is repulsive, but they return to it anyway. When a girl breaks up with a boy, and then she goes back to him, she is just like that dog. She returns to Mr. Vomit.
Winter crept along, and finally spring bloomed into warmer weather and some breaks for David. It seemed like when we hung out together now, things were strained between us. I admit I was not very happy with him, because he had recently been snippy with me in an email, and I didn’t understand, nor could I forgive him since his apologies were more like excuses. He would say that he was particularly stressed on the day he wrote to me because of a test, or because he was tired. I wanted to tell him not to email me then, if he couldn’t be nice in writing them. I never did though. I just stood by and watched my self-esteem wither again, and saw my mental health take many blows. It was like I was always wondering what the next thing would be. And there always was a next thing. No matter how many times David apologized, he still went back to his nasty side eventually. He would cry, saying he felt like he should just die, and didn’t deserve to live, and then he would say he wanted to change. I would offer to help him in any way I could, but he never took me up on it. So, we spent lots of time just sitting next to each other and thinking our own thoughts. Eventually he would poke me and tell me to say something, but I refused. Sometimes I would cry, I got so upset. Usually David would just ignore this.
During David’s Spring Break, he had applied at Dairy Queen, Burger King, and Hardee’s. He was set on the idea that he needed a job over his summer break. He even mentioned that if he could work it out, he might try to take on two jobs. He said it was because he needed the money, but I later learned that it was because I had two jobs, and when I worked and he didn’t he felt “bad”. I mentioned buying a car, and he got all upset, probably because he didn’t actually have his own. I got so frustrated, because he always said how he hated when people had big egos, and here he was with the biggest ego I’d ever known. He got to be so selfish, and it was a side of him I hadn’t seen before. I wondered if I just hadn’t noticed it, or if it was just now coming out. David would always push me to talk, but then when I did tell him something, he would always end up making me feel bad by either getting mad about what I said, or criticizing it. It got to where I didn’t see the point in talking to him, because it only brought me down.
I didn’t really talk to anyone about this hard stuff I was going through. When my mom asked me about my relationship, I would cover things up. My psychologist really pissed me off one day when my mom was at an appointment with me, and she mentioned my “boyfriend David”. My shrink said “What?! You didn’t tell me you had a boyfriend!”. Well, do I have to tell you everything? I thought. Maybe I wanted some things left to myself. I got tired of telling people all of my feelings, thoughts, and daily doings. I also got offended when she asked why I had “closed up” when she asked me about him, and then she said that it seemed like I was pouting. That didn’t make me very happy at all, and needless to say, I stopped going to see her. It was probably a negative thing that I kept all of these hurtful things inside, but I have told some close friends about it since, and it felt good to be able to say that I did the right thing when I stood up for myself. I tried my hardest to be the best girlfriend David could ask for, but he got so mad at me in several emails that I had to question how deep his feelings for me really went. I kept pushing the doubtful thoughts I had out of my mind, telling myself that if I couldn’t handle this type of stuff, how would I ever handle being married? But there is a point where a relationship goes from being healthy, to unhealthy. When you are staying with a guy for the wrong reasons, and being abused, something is wrong.
Over Spring Break, there were lots of graduation parties going on, but I wasn’t invited to many. My family was invited to two total, I believe. David, however, was invited to a LOT. He never told me an exact amount, but let’s face it, he knew a lot more kids that were graduating than I did. He had gotten a job at Dairy Queen, and he was able to fit some parties in around work. He had offered to let me go with him to a few people we both knew, but I felt like I shouldn’t go if I wasn’t invited. He said he might be going to some with Ellen, the girl I mentioned earlier that he knew, and used to work at the library. I didn’t really think much of that, they were friends, after all, and he had known her much longer than I had known him. One party my whole family had been invited to was the son of one of the doctor’s that had helped me through my anorexia. We had been friends with the family for a long time, and had seen this boy grow up. My parents decided we may as well go, since we had time. So we packed everyone up in our van and went to the party. Earlier that day, David had gotten mad at me for making an innocent comment, and we weren’t really speaking. I just decided to leave him alone, because he made the excuse that he was depressed ,and then he said he was considering running out in front of a car to kill himself. I didn’t know how to respond to that, so I just tried to let it go, hoping his threats weren’t serious. Obviously they weren’t, because as I was standing in line with my family to give the graduation card and gift to the graduate, I saw David rounding the corner with none other than Ellen. I was not happy at all. He avoided my gaze, and sat down at a table. I just stood there, fuming. MY parents talked to him for a second, and then my mom asked me if I was going to go sit down with him and Ellen. I just said I didn’t know. Then Ellen and David got up form the table and came over to where I was standing and drinking a soda. “How are you Lydia?” asked Ellen. I was super polite to her, asking her how she was liking college, etc. The whole time I was not meeting David’s eyes. I hated him right then. I really did. He had no right to go and act like he was so depressed he didn’t want to live, and then show up at a graduation party with another GIRL and act like everything was ok. Finally, my parents were ready to leave. I said good-bye to Ellen, and my mom asked me if I wanted to stay and hang out with David, but I just said it was ok, and started to leave. When I was halfway across the yard, headed to the van, David yelled out “wait!” and ran up behind me. I didn’t turn around. I was so pissed at him, and didn’t even think I knew who he was anymore. He took my are and pulled me around to face him. “Hey, I feel better now” he said. “Oh, that’s good.” Yeah, he must be feeling good, basically cheating on me. Whatever. I started to walk away again. I was done with this. He obviously didn’t know how to act appropriately. Why had I ever fallen for this fool in the first place? He tried to hug me, and I just turned my back to him. “What’s wrong?” He queried. What was wrong? What was wrong?! Oh my gosh, the nerve of this jerk. I jut said that nothing was wrong, and he said that he would call me later. Yeah, like I wanted to talk to him again. I went home and tried to concentrate on the book I was reading, but ended up going back to thinking about why he was there with Ellen, and how weird that looked. They looked like they were an item, and even though she had her own boyfriend already, it bothered me a lot. Then one of my sisters asked me why David was there with Ellen, and I thought, if they think it’s weird he was there with another girl, I must not be crazy. It might’ve actually been ok for me to be mad at him if someone else was seeing it the same way I was. When my mom asked me the same question, I told her my doubts, because now that two of my family members addressed it, I was starting to think something was up. I was starting to hate my boyfriend.
David tried to mend what he had broken, but I still held a grudge against him for all of the pain he had caused me. I was sick of how he used me like I had no feelings at all. He knew that I had dealt with depression, and that I was still dealing with eating issues, and yet he heaped more things on my mind for me to worry over. I started to dread his emails, and tried to avoid him as much as I could. He just wasn’t fun to be around anymore, and I didn’t feel like we had much in common like we used to. He had turned in the one thing he never wanted to: an egomaniacal jerk.
For most of the summer, I didn’t see David. He had to work almost every day at his job, and even though he complained about it a lot, he said he liked working that much. It seemed like even though at the beginning of the summer he had told me we would spend all of our free time together, all of HIS free time was going towards his job. It was so hard to forgive some of the things he did, or at least to act like they were ok. I wasn’t ok, he was dragging me down into his troubles with him. I got tired of it fast, and I started to resent him for the things he was doing to me. Maybe he honestly couldn’t tell that he was hurting me, but the things that happened seemed too big to ignore. I still wasn’t talking to anyone about the things I had been going through with him. My mom would say that David seemed unhappy. And she mentioned that between Spring Break and summer, she had noticed that he looked a lot thinner. I said that he had told me he was just stressed out with school and wasn’t eating as much, but I hadn’t fallen for that excuse. The truth was, David was also becoming anorexic. I confronted him about it, and he wasn’t able keep the front of his lie. He admitted that he felt so bad that I had gone through such a hell, that he wanted to put himself through it so he wouldn’t feel guilty. I told him that what he was doing would just end up hurting both of us. He told me braggingly that he rarely ate at work, and when he did it was a hot dog. Even then, he said, he felt guilty and fat. Then he told me that he had started to water down his diet pop. First off, he had never drunk diet pop before, he always said it was gross. Second, watering down diet pop? Was I the only one that found this weird? Apparently not, because he said one of his co-workers had asked him why he was putting water in his pop that was already diet, so it had no calories. He said he couldn’t tell the difference between full strength and watered down, so he added water. All of this worried me. I didn’t know how to stop him from doing what he was doing, or how to help him. I knew that over time, if I just let it go, things would get worse. I talked to him about it and he just said he was so depressed and he didn’t know what was going on. He seemed to talk about food and calories a lot more than he had previously, and I knew that when I first got “sick” food had overtaken my brain. It was all I thought about. Now it seemed he was having this same phenomenon overtake him too.
Our town always has a county fair in July. This year a Christian band was coming to perform, and the youth group I went to was going to go as a group to the concert. I worked on the night the concert was going to be, but I planned to just go up to the fair after closing. The Saturday before the concert, David had come into the library and was talking to me, and then he said “Gretchen (an old friend, he used to like her) and I are planning on going to the concert on Wednesday, if you want to sit with us.” The first thing that ran through my mind was why was he inviting ME to go along with him and another girl? Wouldn’t he assume I would feel like a third wheel? Apparently not, because when I voiced my opinion about that, he said “YOU would feel like a third wheel? I thought if anything, Gretchen might.” Yeah right. So, they were planning on going TOGETHER, and I could tag along? No. Thank. You. I got really upset over this, but I just kind of moped about it instead of asking David not to go with Gretchen. I didn’t feel like I could do that and still feel ok. He could do what he wanted, I wouldn’t step in. The night of the concert came, and I told my mom I would be going to the fair after work. David had offered to drive me to the fair after work, but I was still mad at him, so I said thanks, but no. My mom asked if I would be meeting up with David at the fair, and I said probably not since he was going with Gretchen. She asked me if I thought that was odd, but I just kept my mouth shut. It made me feel uncomfortable talking to my mom about junk like that, because I knew that things were weird, but wanted to cover it up for some reason. When I got to the fair, I spotted the youth group, and then saw David not too many rows behind them, laughing at something Gretchen had said. I started to fume. Seeing him with her just made me furious. This wasn’t right, I could feel it in my heart. It felt like he was cheating on me. The concert started, and I was having a really good time. From time to time I would peek over my shoulder to see what David and Gretchen were doing. Then, on the second to last song, David came up and stood beside me. I just ignored him. I was so hurt. Couldn’t he see that? Why would I be ok with him practically going on a date with another girl? This was so messed up. When the concert was over, David tried to talk to me, but I just told him I had to go. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to him right now, maybe wouldn’t be for a while. He had hurt me, and I didn’t know if I could forgive him this time.
The next morning when I checked my email, I saw I had one from David. I clicked to open it, and saw he had mentioned the concert, and said that he wished he could’ve spent more time with me. (I didn’t.) I replied back that I thought it was kind of odd that he had gone with Gretchen, but I couldn’t make his decisions for him. I just didn’t understand. Wasn’t I enough for him? Did he want to date Gretchen? If so, fine. I was fed up and would gladly give him up. David had become like a bad habit I couldn’t break. I was addicted, and it wasn’t healthy. I felt like I needed his approval, and needed to please him with everything I did, even though he definitely didn’t deserve that kind of respect. David was planning on going to New York with his brother and dad at the end of July, and I was planning on going to a church camp with my sister over that same time he would be gone. I felt like that was perfect how it worked out that we would be traveling at the same time...hopefully we wouldn’t miss each other too much. At camp, I wouldn’t be able to text or call David, and I apologized for that, but I was kind of relieved that I wouldn’t have to be in contact for a week. I was actually beginning to feel like David was smothering me, and I was obligated to hang out with him. But we never did anything when we were together. We just sat there awkwardly.
The day before David was to leave for New York, he came over and we “talked”. It was super awkward, and I just wanted it to be over. It was a Friday, and my family usually orders in, so I had that as an excuse. I hugged him good-bye, and told him I hoped he had a good time, but I didn’t really mean it. I knew I would miss him, just because I was so attached to him, but I still thought it would be good to have some time without him. In two days I would be leaving for camp, so I wouldn’t be thinking about him much anyway.
On Sunday, my sister and I went to church, and then right after that we left for church camp. About ten kids in all were going. I had never gone before, so I was pretty nervous and excited. The camp was about two hours from our town, but it seemed like a fairly quick trip. All of the kids that were going down to the camp had a lot of pent up energy and excitement just bursting to get out of them. I read almost the whole time, or listened to my iPod. I had brought five books along, and was planning on reading every one of them over the course of the week. We pulled into the camp, and saw a lot of kids milling about. The place was kind of run down from what I could see. We got registered, and I debated about dropping off my medication I had brought with me, but opted against it. After all, I administered it to myself at home, why not at camp? I’d just have to keep it, my cell phone, and my iPod hidden. We were supposed to hand all of that stuff over on the first day of camp, but I didn’t really want to, and I wanted to be able to text secretly if I had the urge. All of the girl campers from our church loaded their bags into a four-wheeler and started walking down a flight off wooden stairs into a sort of valley, and then up another set of stairs and onto a hill that had the girls “cabins” on it. The cabins were more of a big dorm building. The boys hill had actual cabins on it. The camp directors must’ve decided that girls needed more civilized living space for the week we would be staying at camp. Our bags were sitting inside the main entry, and our counselor guided us to our “cabin”/room. There were eight campers on our cabin. I chose a bottom bunk after realizing that I would have better access to my stuff there rather than from a top one. I had just brought a sleeping bag for my bedding, but some girls had brought their whole bedroom with them it looked like. When we first got to camp, we had been told to meet up at the chapel at five o’ clock, and it was nearing that time, so like good little campers, most of the girls headed back to where we had registered, and found a seat in a metal folding chair. Lots of boys had already shown up too, and there were lots of voices talking at once. Its still amazing to me how loud a room can get when you put more that teen people in it. Soon enough, one of the directors of the camp came in, and told us some information. Then it was time to head to the dining hall for dinner.
One thing that I was worried about at camp was not being able to exercise, and the food I would need to eat to keep myself from looking too weird, and getting too weak. The first night we had a basic meal of chicken, potatoes, and ice cream. I forced myself to eat some of everything, even finishing off my ice cream. I was pretty hungry anyway, and I wouldn’t be eating my usual snacks I would have at home, so I was able to justify my intake. After I ate the ice cream I asked myself why I had. After all, I hadn’t let myself indulge in ice cream for months. I felt like I needed to move, work off the ice cream. But at camp, we had a schedule, and after supper we had chapel. Chapel was like a mini church service, where there was a preacher who spoke, and worship. The services lasted for about an hour, but were always entertaining, so I was rarely bored. I tried to push thoughts of what I had consumed far out of my mind, but they still crept in. I just felt disappointed in myself. I hadn’t let myself go like that in a long time, and wasn’t sure why I was doing it now. Before camp, I had told myself I would have to be good to myself, and eat what I needed to keep going. It was easy for me to beat myself up over eating, because I was used to it. I did it every day, even if I didn’t realize it.
The following morning, I woke up at seven. There was an optional prayer time that we were encouraged to attend, and I was planning on checking it out. It ran from 7:30- 8:00. At eight we had breakfast. The prayer time was nice, and it was a small group, which made it feel almost more meaningful. It was funny, because off and on, I could hear people’s stomachs growling. Mine was too. It was time for breakfast. We all headed back to girls hill, where the dining hall was. It was a part of the new building that had been constructed a few years ago. Before wee could eat breakfast, we had to wait outside until all of the counselors were inside and at the tables. When we were all seated, everyone bowed their heads in prayer. When the prayer was over, tables were called up one by one to get their breakfast. It was pancakes and sausages this morning. There was also the option of dry cereal. I figured cereal would be lower in calories, so I filled up a bowl of Lucky Charms. The only kind of milk they had was 2%, so I grabbed a carton of that and sat down. When I finished my bowl of cereal, I was still hungry. I debated about getting another bowl or not…finally I decided I should, just to make sure I was full until lunch. Even after I ate that second bowl, I wasn’t completely satisfied. I just dealt with it though, because I wasn’t going to let myself eat any more food for breakfast. I was denying myself food again.
We were given schedules of how our day would be portioned out. After breakfast, we had Bible study time, where we met with our cabin mates and counselor and talked about some passages and our thoughts on them. No one really wanted to talk about things very deeply though, and our counselor seemed kind of frustrated. After about fifteen minutes of group discussion, she told us we could split up and pray, journal, or study a verse. I broke off from the group and prayed, laying my head down in the grass. It was a warm day, and it felt good to relax out in the fresh air. All of a sudden I jerked awake. I had fallen asleep! During our Bible study time…whoops! I felt kind of guilty, but I had been praying when I fell asleep, so I hadn’t been totally ignoring what we were supposed to be doing. I looked around and saw that everyone else was still looking at their Bibles, or closing their eyes in what I assumed was prayer. MY thoughts flickered to David. I wondered what he was doing at the moment. I hadn’t texted him since I got to camp, because I hadn’t had any alone time, and I didn’t want my cell phone to be confiscated. He was probably in New York at some cool museum. I wondered if he even missed me. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was close to noon, almost lunch time. Our counselor called to us and said we could head to the dining hall. The morning had gone super fast. I had gotten from one meal to the other without too much discomfort from being hungry. I was happy about that, because even though I had snacks I could eat, I knew I would have a hard time rationalizing that.
I got through lunch okay. I think it helped that I knew afterwards we would be playing some kind of game or activity, and hopefully it would get me active. I was having a great time at camp, but I felt home sick. I have never felt that way before when I have been away from home, but I was counting down the days I had left to stay. Maybe it was because I was so far out of my normal routine, but I just didn’t like camp as much as I thought I would. I found I really missed my baby brother, and my daily routine. Work was another thing I missed. I had taken two days off from work at the library, and several at the Coffee Den, and I felt annoyed that I wouldn’t be earning any money this week. Sometimes when I thought about decisions I had made, I felt overwhelmed and anxious. I regret lots of things I decide to do, and going to camp was one of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy myself, or the time I spent with my friends, I just felt uncomfortable, and it seemed like I spent most of the day waiting until the next meal. And it really irritated me when the counselor in our cabin tried to push me to drink sugary Kool-Aid. Yeah, right, I wasn’t following the crowd! Some mornings, my cabin mates would say they weren’t hungry, so they were skipping breakfast. Our counselor would have none of that, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” she would admonish. Usually we all abided by her “rules” though. Our counselor also sang hymns to us before bed, or while we were falling asleep. We had one of the calmer cabins. Several girls from other cabins even came to ours to find refuge, as theirs were crazy and the girls in them were up until all hours. We just wanted to get sleep, and all of the girls in our cabin were pretty laid back and quiet. When I took a shower on the second day we were at camp, I pulled my phone out of my suitcase and brought it to the bathroom with me. I texted my mom and David just to see how they were doing. My mom texted back almost right away, but I didn’t hear from David for a while, which made me feel better about not being able to text him for a few days. And when he did text back, he didn’t really text much. He just said he was having a good time. Well fine, I wouldn’t text him anymore.I think I texted David one more time that week, just because I was feeling insecure. He texted back faster that time, but he still didn’t seem to thrilled to hear from me. The week at camp flew by, but also seemed to go slow, as I was anticipating going back home. It was really hot for a few of the days, and it was nice to have a pool to be able to swim in. Other days it rained and we tried to stay indoors as much as we could. During one of the worship services, there was a really moving moment when people were supposed to ask for forgiveness from God. I’m pretty sure almost every person in the room had tears running down their face that night. It was really special, and I felt like I was closer to God afterwards. That was one moment I’m glad I got to experience in the week I spent at camp, the rest weren’t too spectacular. All in all, it’s probably a good thing I went, since I had wanted to since I was a first grader, but I didn’t think I’d be going again next year.
I got back from camp on a Sunday, and David had gotten back form New York on that Saturday. When I got back, I let him know, and of course he wanted to hang out as soon as we could! It just didn’t work out for me, and I kept putting it off. I didn’t really want to see him, because I knew in my heart I was going to dump him. It got to be a week after I had come home, and I still hadn’t seen him. David stopped in the library when I was working. It was a surprise to me, he hadn’t mentioned stopping in. He came right up to the counter and gave me a small plastic baggy with a necklace inside. The necklace was a miniature skeleton key hanging on a golden chain. It was very pretty, and I really liked skeleton keys, so that was a bonus. I thanked him for it, but told him that he really shouldn’t have. He replied that he wanted to. Well, I thought, hopefully you still feel that way soon. We chatted for a while, and he finally said he better let me get back to work. I was grateful that he was going. But then he turned and walked away without saying good-bye. I was frantic, what did this mean? Did he still love me? Because he wasn’t showing it. All day I stewed, wondering what the heck his actions meant. It bothered me that my own boyfriend wouldn’t say farewell to me. A few weeks later, I went to an illusionist with my family. I had invited David to come, but he had said he probably wouldn’t since he wanted to save his money. I wasn’t expecting him to show up, but then I saw him walking down the aisle. He came over and sat don in a seat beside me. I asked him why he came, and he said he wanted to spend time with me, even if the show was going to be stupid. The show turned out to be quite impressive, and even though David made fun of it, I was pretty sure he had enjoyed it. After the performance, I got the magician’s signature on a poster, and was getting ready to head out. I said good- bye to David, and asked if he was going to leave, but he just shrugged. He was acting really weird. When I said good night, he just said “see you”, and walked away. The second time in a week that he had done this! I was pretty mad. I followed my family out of the building, but then I ran up to my dad and told him I had remembered something I had to tell David. I ran back in and found him and said I needed to talk to him. We went to a hallway, and I asked him what was wrong. He just said he didn’t know. I laid t out for him plain, telling him I was worried, and couldn’t handle this crap much longer. He still didn’t open up. It was getting late, so I told him I needed to leave. Finally he apologized, saying he was just so stressed out, and that he didn’t know what to do. I assured him it was ok (it wasn’t) and asked him what I could do. He said he didn’t know. We talked a little bit, and then I told him I really needed to get going, because it was nearing eleven. This time, he walked me out the door and hugged me good night.
I did a lot of thinking over the next few days. I found that I wasn’t really attracted to David anymore. He had hurt me so much, that all I saw in him was his potential to harm me, not to love. When someone is constantly putting you down and disagreeing with you, it’s hard to love them. I had told him that at camp, the girls cabins had air conditioning. He thought it was unfair and stupid that the girls got cool air, and the boys had to suffer in the heat. I told him that that was just the way it was, but he acted like it was my fault. He even swore about it. David had told me back when we first started dating that he only swore when he was really upset. I figured that if he was mad enough to swear at me, that was not a good thing, or something I should take lightly. I asked him why he was so upset about such a little thing, and he couldn’t give me an explanation. Then a few weeks later I was talking to him about a time my family had ordered food at Dairy Queen, and my dad had commented on sweat dripping off of a kid there as he handed my dad a Blizzard. David swore as he told me how hot it got in Dairy Queen, and he said it was stupid of my dad to say it was gross to see sweat dripping off of someone. I obviously tried to stand up for my dad, but I didn’t want to make David more mad, so I kept my mouth hut as tight as I could. Who was this imposter? I felt like I didn’t know him at all. I was getting really tired of how he was treating me. I finally stood up for myself. One night I had him come over to my house, and we talked. Eventually I told him that I had something to say that he wasn’t going to like, and that I was so sorry, but it had to be done. I told him I would miss him, but that breaking up with him would be what I thought was best for us. He put up a fight, whining about how he would try harder, if only I would think about this a little bit more. I told him I already had, and there was nothing else to think over, I was done. He kept saying he was so sorry, if only he had tried harder, maybe this wouldn’t be happening. I agreed with that, maybe if he had tried harder, he wouldn’t be losing me. I had finally convinced myself I deserved something better than a guy who only brought me down. I had finally stood up to David and told him that he wasn’t good enough for me. David kept trying to talk me out of my decision, but I didn’t back down, I stood firm. Eventually he left, and I cried, thinking I would never see him again. On one hand, I was ready for that, but on the other, I had spent so much time with David that I felt lost without him. I cried myself to sleep, and the night went by fitfully. I woke up feeling depressed and out of sorts. It felt weird to wake up and boot up my computer, only to find a bunch of junk mail in my inbox. It was hard to concentrate on anything. I tried reading, doing chores, taking a nap, but my thoughts kept returning to David. Mid afternoon, I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked up my phone and typed out a text. I told David I missed him, and I knew there was no way he would take me back after what I had done to him, but that if he would, I wanted him back. Two minutes later I got a text back. He was at work, but he would get off at ten. He could come over then if I liked. I said that would be fine. I eagerly awaited his arrival, and when ten o clock came, I felt nervous, like I had when I went on my first date with him. When he drove up, I rushed out to the front porch. He walked up the driveway, and shyly looked up at me. “I’m all gross and sweaty, so you don’t want to hug me” he announced. I shrugged and laughed, “That’s ok, I just wanted to apologize face to face” I said. That was all it took, and seemingly, we were both okay again.
It was as if our love for each other had been renewed. I think we both felt it, this rush of new love. It almost seemed like being apart and “losing” each other for a day had done something to benefit us. We still didn’t find that much to talk about, but at least we enjoyed being together. I also found that I appreciated David more, now that I had been without him for most of a day. Even though he still seemed to put me down often, I was able to feel more forgiving to him since I knew how bad he wanted to be in a relationship with me. Our new found love went on for about a week, and then I felt like I was slipping back into my resentment of him. I would mention something, and David would get all defensive, saying how he didn’t think this would work, or that maybe it wasn’t such a great idea. I had posted something recently on Facebook about a search engine I used. When you search, sometimes you win “Swagbucks” and when you collect enough “bucks” you can then use them to buy stuff in the “swagstore.” Well, I had posted a link on Facebook, to try and refer some of my friends, because if you refer a friend, not only do they win Swagbucks, but for every one they win, you win one too. David didn’t sign up under my link, but he installed the toolbar and did some searches on it, and won ten Swagbucks. The next time he came over to my house he asked me about the search engine, and if I used it, telling me it had to be a scam. Well, I had been using this site for about three months now, and had even won enough prizes to receive a free $5 Amazon Gift-card. I told him this, but he still acted like it was stupid for me to use it, and that he used Google, and it was much better. I told him that it worked good for me, and if I could get free stuff for browsing the internet, that was cool with me. I still got the impression that he didn’t approve of how I searched the internet, but I brushed it off. It was really none of his business.
A few nights after this episode, David and I were talking on the phone, and he made a rude comment to me. I had had enough once more. I couldn’t take this emotional and verbal abuse, along with my eating struggles. MY mom confronted me the next day, after I had been prayerfully considering letting David go again. She asked me what was going on in our relationship, and I told her I really didn’t know anymore. I made a list of all the things he had said and done, and told her that I really didn’t feel like he was working out anymore. She also voiced her concern about how thin David was getting, saying that she didn’t think that could be easy for me, and I agreed. IT was hard to feel encouraged by him when he was starting to restrict his food and I was trying to increase my intake. She told me that she thought the best thing I could do would be to break up with him. “Thank you” I said sincerely. “I think I needed someone else to tell me to do it, because I wasn’t sure if it was the correct thing to do”. My mom told me that I should tell my dad what had been going on, to see what he thought. When my dad came home for his lunch break, I told him how I felt, and what had been happening. He said “yeah, you need to stop seeing him, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t get back together with him ever again”. I felt like a burden had been lifted from my shoulders. I hadn’t realized how stressed out I had been for the past few days, but looking back I realized how down and tired I had been. I had felt exhausted, but hadn’t really done anything too intense. I wasn’t really hungry, even though I knew I should’ve been. Even though I was on antidepressants, I still felt depressed. David was not good for me.
I logged on to Facebook, and wrote David a quick message, no apologies, just the facts. He didn’t deserve my sympathy, because he was the one that was making me feel so horrible. I admit, it was kind of cheesy to break up over a social media website, but I didn’t want to talk to David face to face, or even hear his voice. I just wanted out. The past few nights I had slept fitfully, and I was really looking forward to a good nights rest. When I checked my messages later in the day, I saw that David had replied saying that he was sorry, and that he never should’ve said the things he had to me. It was all his fault, and he understood that I never wanted to speak to him or see him again. He said he was so mad at himself, and he said he hated what he had become. I did too. He wasn’t who he was when we first started dating. He was an inconsiderate jerk who only lived to please himself, and I was oh so happy to be rid of him. I was done going back to Mr. Vomit.
David still had a job at Dairy Queen, and my family still ate there. One night I want to DQ with one of my friends and my sister. I saw David’s car in the parking lot and my heart started beating faster. My friend realized her mistake in offering to take us to DQ, and apologized. I said “Oh no, it’s ok, I can tough it out”. We went inside and ordered, fortunately David was in the back, but I did see him. I glared at the back of his head for a while, and then turned away. He made me sick just thinking about him. The day before he had posted something on Facebook to make it look like he regretted the fact that he had done what he did, and then a bunch of his “friends” that were girls had commented, saying they loved him. He had commented back that he loved them too. That made me furious, and I deleted him as my “friend”. A few weeks later, after he returned to college, he started posting things on a mutual friends wall, just random nerdy stuff, trying to make himself look so special. I wanted to comment and tell him no one cared. The last I knew, he was still claiming to be so depressed, he was considering suicide, and now he was posting stupid information on someone’s Facebook wall. I wanted to hurt him so badly, but only in my thoughts. I really had no desire to ever see him again.
Life went on. Even though I would always hold a piece of David inside me, I still knew that I was better off without him. Now, when I see Asian men, I shiver in horror, wondering how I had ever been attracted to David. It’s not that I’m racist, I just don’t know why I ever thought it would work out between me and a guy that was more of a wimp than I was. I needed a man that was strong, and manly, one I could admire for being a male figure, and not feminine.In my few years I have lived, I have learned many things, and been hurt many times. I try not to feel remorse about my experiences, but sometimes when I overanalyze, I do get regretful. I wish I could live my life over, but don’t many of us feel that way? Everyone makes mistakes, and I just have to keep reminding myself of that. Too many years of my life were spent trying to live perfectly, and since no one is perfect, that didn’t go over well at all. Most days I live with joy and peace, but I still struggle sometimes to find balance.