Catlin's Story Anorexia UCSB, California / Australia

I have struggled with my need for perfection all my life. I have always needed perfect grades, perfect relationships and the perfect body. During my Junior year of high school I was involved in club soccer, track and I had a lead in the school musical. All my activities were putting a strain on my school work and my relationships with my boyfriend and family. I felt like I had no control over my life. It seemed like my perfect world was crumbling.

I decided that maybe if I was perfect on the outside then I would feel better about myself on the inside. In the two months that followed I faced the most difficult battle of my life. A battle against myself! Every time I saw my reflection in the mirror my eyes would begin to fill with tears of self hatred. I began to exercise all the time. I would run 5 to 6 miles everyday and then come home and do 400 sit-ups every night. I was so tired of looking the way I did. I had an intense hatred of my own body. I would run with Saran Wrap taped around my body and then top it off with a big, thick pair of sweats. I guess, I thought I might be able to sweat my thighs away.

I was so anxious to loose the weight, that one night after dinner I went to the bathroom and tried to make myself vomit. I stuck my finger down my throat several times but I could not do it. I became so frustrated because I knew that if I could just get to the point where I could make myself vomit, then I would not have to worry about what I ate anymore. I even tried using the handle of my toothbrush before realizing that I could not do it. I just cried on the bathroom floor.

At first the hunger was all I could think about. I wanted to eat all the time. So, one night after school I went to the supermarket and bought some diet pills and water pills. I took the diet pills in the hope that they would relieve the pangs of hunger that made my will power weak and I used the water pills to keep me from retaining any water in my system. After a few days the hunger was not so bad and I almost began to like that feeling of emptiness in my stomach.

Whenever my stomach was empty I felt proud of myself for having the will power to resist food. Everytime I was forced to eat with my family it made the starvation periods so much harder to stand. I would ache to taste the different flavors in my mouth. One day I was in the kitchen and I could not help myself, I shoved a chocolate chip cookie in my mouth, but before I could swallow it. I felt this enormous feeling of guilt. I knew that if I ate that cookie it would mean that I had failed. So, I spit the mush that was in mouth into the trash. Then I had a great idea I could eat anything I wanted as long as I did not swallow it. At the time it was enough just to be able to taste food again. I missed the sensation of eating but it was comforting to go through the motions even if the food did not actually go to my stomach.

By the end of my junior year of high school I weighed 104 pounds. I had lost 34 pounds and the effects of the weight loss had changed my body. The funny thing is I lost the weight to look better, but physically I felt so much worse. I was always tired and irritable. I would come to school annoyed with everything. I was 5'5" and 104 pounds and as crazy as it sounds I did not think I had a serious problem...or at least I did not admit it to myself. I never told anyone what was going on. I guess, I thought that if I admitted that I had a problem then the whole thing would become real.

One day during a track meet at the end of my junior year reality finally set in. I was scheduled to run four races, but only completed one. I ran the 200, which was supposed to be one of my best events and I finished in 5th place. My next event was the 400, which is a complete lap at full pace. This race is hard enough when I was in good condition, but because I had not eaten anything substantial in weeks I collapsed on the track. I completely blacked out. I could not even stand up by myself. That night I went home and cried. That one event scared me to death.

From that day on, with the help of my family, I was slowly able to come to terms with my problem. It was a slow recovery and I cannot say that I never think about my weight or how I look, but something has changed. I appreciate and care for my body. No one is perfect.