A Year Lost This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

This spring myclass graduated. These friends, whom I've known since kindergarten, have gone offto college - without me. We live in a rural town with only one school, so we grewup together. Together, we learned about fractions and Shakespeare, Picasso andthe Holocaust, friendship and love, life, sickness, and death. For almost 13years I shared moments of joy and memories of pain. But I did not share in theexcitement, the nervousness, the happiness, the long-awaited moment in which capswere tossed into the air. I did not graduate withthem.

*          *          *

Afew years before, holiday treats, off-season inactivity, and a week-long vacationconvinced me I definitely could stand to lose a few pounds. As I launched mydiet, I never realized the many ways we can lose. In the years that followed, Inot only lost a little weight, but a little of everything.

By the end ofsophomore year, my weight had dropped so much that I was diagnosed with anorexianervosa. Convinced that I could start eating normally whenever I wanted, Iresisted any help, therapy, medication and treatment. I promised my parents Iwould eat well, and I honestly believed I could. But even the best of intentionscan go astray. I began injuring myself, and was descending into a deep pit ofdepression.

That summer, I tried to put on a happy face and not cause anyworry. While obediently eating my meals and snacks, talking to a nutritionist,and seeing my doctor for weigh-ins, I secretly held onto my desire for thinness.I found ways to trick the scale, occasionally purged, often avoided the mealplans, and constantly exercised. I appeared to be doing well, but beneath mysmiling facade were obsessive behaviors, frequent cutting, and eventuallysuicidal gestures. My self-destructive patterns were discovered, and one monthinto junior year I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Days went by,weeks passed, and I continued to plummet into darkness. I was released from thehospital three weeks later, only to be re-admitted to another the next day. I hadno desire to recover, for despite multiple diagnoses, including severe MajorDepressive Disorder, I believed I was just fine. I was in denial of my anorexia,saw no danger in cutting myself, and had no will to survive.

Eachdischarge lasted only a day or two; I spent three months in programs and daytreatment, never completing any program because I always ended up back on theinpatient units. I was fully discharged two days before Christmas, but byFebruary I was in the hospital again - this time for seven months. I was sent tothe state mental hospital, and still I did not think I had a problem.

Only after I began to see how much I was losing did I begin to makesignificant strides. I saw my self-injury escalate to a point at which even I wasscared of what I might do. I had been threatened with feeding tubes and beengiven IVs. I felt sick constantly. I couldn't concentrate on the simplest tasks,the littlest things upset me, and I had become completely obsessive and paranoid,often sleeping under desks and hiding in little spaces on the unit.

I felthorrible. I missed an entire year of school and lost contact with all my friends.I pushed my family away. I missed my junior prom, school concerts, andextracurricular activities. I was unable to go to church or teach my SundaySchool class, nor could I attend my sister's Confirmation as her sponsor. I lostmy summer, spending the days in the hospital instead of at the beach. In August Idecided I wanted my life back.

In mid-September I met with my guidancecounselor, who set up my schedule with the classes from the previous year, and Ibegan attending school while still an inpatient at the state hospital. Dischargedin October, I was certain I would never again be admitted to a psych ward, orhurt myself. Eating was still an issue, but I had it under control. I was quiteoptimistic.

Nevertheless, I found myself feeling depressed. A few cuts anda plan to run away from home landed me in yet another residential program.Christmas came and went, and I had begun to cut more. I stopped eating, and wasabsent from school constantly. Several times my parents were called to pick me upsince I was unable to keep myself safe. And I was still a junior.

My oldfriends, all seniors, were busy with college applications and enjoying theirfinal year of high school. I was but a shadow in their minds. My new junior classwas also my sister's class, and I didn't seem to fit in. I had seen things they'dnever even heard of, done things they'd never even thought of, but I missed outon their experiences and my own life. I had a few close friends, but more oftenthan not I found myself alone, lonely, sad. I never thought this would go so far... a simple diet ... a few cuts ... a whole year lost, one I can never takeback.

I have been doing better recently. I am trying to be more incontrol of my disorders and my life. I am now classified as Eating Disorder NotOtherwise Specified (i.e. not Anorexia), and am taking medication for my anxietydisorder. My obsessive-compulsive and borderline traits occasionally interferewith things, but my depression and concentration have improved with a combinationof anti-depressants and ADD/ADHD medications.

Though it's still astruggle to get through each day, I am making progress. I have an individualizededucation plan even though I am an honors student because I need the emotionalsupport. I still have trouble answering the question regarding what grade I amin, for while I was a senior at heart, I was a junior. I made mistakes, and Ihope others can learn from my experiences. If any of what you've read soundsfamiliar, I urge you to get help NOW. Please don't make the same mistakes I did,I don't want you to lose so much. I will remember, though, that I am lucky to be

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 10 at 8:18 am
i love this so much!
i<3you said...
Feb. 27, 2009 at 1:04 am
That is sad. But I am so happy to hear that you are doing well! Keep up the great work! I encourage you, and I am sure I speak wfor the majority of people, to keep getting better and keep yourself healthy. Good job!
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