My name is Michelle, and Im the face behind the words on Anorexia-Reflections.com.
With My Puppy, Cheyenne :)
I would just like to take some time to introduce myself and give you some background on my personal struggle with anorexia, and how this website came into existence.
It's been a long, difficult journey, but I hope you'll bear with me as I share my story with you.
I briefly mentioned on my home page that I've been struggling with anorexia for over 30 years, but I was not formally diagnosed with the illness until I was 38 years old.
You're probably wondering how in the world could that happen?? How can someone stay under the radar for so long?
I'm no expert in statistics, but my guess is that there are many others who remain under that same radar.
People are struggling and perhaps they can't even recognize how sick they are. Maybe they aren't ready to get help, or maybe they just don't know where to turn.
Friends and family may not even realize how seriously ill someone really is because on the outside, they "look fine". Anorexia is very deceiving.
Recent studies show that in most cases, it's the ones who "look fine" who are in the most immediate medical danger.
That was definitely how it was for me. I was described as "thin" or "tiny" or "skinny" but for most of my life, I don't think I ever got to the point of looking like a skeletal, emaciated anorexic - until 2007 when I was diagnosed.
With a body mass index of 11, I went stumbling into my doctor's office because I couldn't stop crying or shaking.
I was unable to concentrate, unable to focus, and I was pretty much at the end of my rope. I believed that my "rolls of fat" were the cause of my problems.
It's hard to remember *exactly* when my eating disorder began because it sort of crept up on me. It wasn't as though I woke up one day and arbitrarily decided that I wasn't going to eat.
From the age of 3 or 4 I was pretty involved in gymnastics. I remember my coaches raving about how much speed and height I was getting because I was "so tiny".
Comments like, "You're lucky to be so tiny", or "I'm glad you're staying so small..." had a profound effect on me that I didn't fully understand until just a few years ago.
As a young girl involved in gymnastics and swimming, I may have been too young to grasp the concept of weight ranges and numbers, but I knew that I had to "stay small" in order to meet my coaches' approval.
Before I was even 10 years old, it was pointed out to me if there were rolls or bulges anywhere.
My Little Angel, Cheyenne :)
I believe that the reason my illness was so well-hidden is that I was never, ever within my ideal weight range - even the day I was born.
There was never the shock factor that you hear about where girls go from their ideal weight to stick-thin in a short amount of time. That always sends up the red flags.
In my case, I was always small, so it was all 'normal'.
When it came to doctor's appointments and check-ups, my low weight was something that was just a case of, "Oh she's a tiny person... She's always been like that..."
Everyone in my family (on both sides) is petite, so I do come by that honestly, but still... nobody was able to clue in to the intense emotional fear of weight gain that was making me more frantic as I got older.
I really didn't give them much to work with either. I became abnormally quiet, isolated and withdrawn.
At the age of 11, I was skipping a lot of school and hiding alone in a field all day (rain, sleet, snow or shine) - and I ate nothing. In fact, I deliberately tossed my lunches away.
A lot had happened in my life up to that point.
My parents divorced when I was about 6 years old, my mother remarried when I was 9, and then there were other incidents that left me as a pretty tormented and broken child.
I kept my feelings all inside, believing that I was the one to blame for everything that was going on.
By the time high school came around, I developed an interest in instrumental music.
I had been playing the clarinet for a few years, and I was loving it! It was the only thing that got me out in the world - having to attend band practices and concerts.
I was also doing a lot of singing and became very involved in our high school's musicals. I loved that too.
I met and knew a lot of people at school, but I was still alone.
Although I was always asked, I never attended parties or even dated anyone.
During my senior year, my family moved to another city so I had to graduate with students that I didn't know. I was devastated.
I once again began skipping tons of school (I don't even know how I managed to pass!) and I quit my music classes.
This school was a few years behind my previous one, so I wasn't learning anything new. Instead I was playing tunes that I had learned 3 years earlier. I was so bored.
Through the years I pretty much maintained my food-restriction behaviors, becoming obsessive about cutting food, or dividing it, into teensy pieces or portions.
Certain foods had to be chopped to a "required" numbers of pieces.
They say that when you don't eat, your mind is starved as well. I definitely found that to be true in my case!
I couldn't think clearly and my concentration and decision-making processes were almost non-existent.
The effects of starvation were setting in, and getting worse as time went on.
There are chunks of time in my life that I don't even remember. People tell me that I went somewhere or did something, and I have absolutely no recollection of it.
I didn't know it at the time, but in my late 20's and early 30's I think I was struggling just to keep it together.
I fought to keep my weight obsession hidden - making it look like I was eating - and at the same time, trying to maintain a calm, cool, and collected "everything is fine" exterior.
I'm sure that those I've met through the years were able to sense that something wasn't quite right, but they just couldn't put their finger on it. They may have seen me as just another "oddball".
There are many situations in my life where I can recall pieces of information and events, but they are all disjointed and it's hard to make sense of anything. Sometimes I think back on what I can remember and ask myself, "Did I really do that??"
Anorexia is the most complex illness that I've ever known. Finding good, reliable treatment is just as complicated. A lot of physicians seem to want nothing to do with it - at least that has been my experience in trying to get treatment.
I am a perfect example of the fact that starvation doesn't just affect the body - it profoundly affects the mind ... to the point of even altering your personality.
The good news is that starvation effects are usually reversible with treatment, and a medically supervised refeeding process.
As my anorexic world came crashing in on me, I could barely get myself out of bed in the morning.
I was trying to go to work every day, and finally my boss told me that I needed to see my doctor. I was so unproductive and simply could not function.
After a battery of tests and interviews, which lasted a few months, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
Finding treatment was a real struggle because where I live (Ontario, Canada), there is no inpatient treatment for anyone over the age of 21.
The age restriction (in addition to 2-3 year waiting lists elsewhere in Canada) forced me to look out of the country for treatment. It was a financial nightmare, but my digestive system had completely shut down, and my life was now on the line.
Me With My Little Angel :)
By some miracle, I was able to get into treatment right away at Remuda Ranch in Arizona.
It happened fast. My psychologist is on Remuda's list of outpatient therapists, so they make referrals to her once treatment there is completed.
This time it worked in reverse.
My psychologist called Remuda (desperately concerned about my health), and the very next day I was on the plane and being admitted for treatment - even before the financial arrangements had been finalized.
During my time at Remuda, I opted to be involved in Canine Therapy as part of my treatment program. I LOVED it, and I think it definitely helped save my life. The things I learned in that phase of the program really gave my recovery a boost.
The whole process also made me think seriously about getting my own dog. After very careful consideration - wondering if I could even handle it - I eventually did just that!
Cheyenne is a pure-bred American Eskimo Dog. She's currently in training to become a Therapy Dog :)
It's a ton of work to prepare her for something like that, but until she's fully certified, shes my therapy dog.... so loveable, loyal, protective and cuddly!
My treatment at Remuda Ranch has ended, but I remain in out-patient treatment here at home.
I have the BEST treatment team that anyone could ask for - a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Dietitian and Medical Doctor. A team approach is really the only way to help conquer this illness.
If you've made it this far -wow, I'm impressed!! Pretty heavy reading there :)
Thank you so much for visiting Anorexia-Relfections.com. By all means, if you see something you like (or even dislike), please use the contact form and let me know!
I love to hear from my visitors, and Im completely open to suggestions for improvement, or for topics youd like to see covered.
This site is still very much in its infancy, so I hope youll come back often to see what I've been working on, and whats new!
All The Best,