I had a tube.
I was in the ICU.
I was on dialysis.
My weight was (insert two digit number).
I’ve been in 12 treatment centers.
I’ve been diagnosed as chronic.
My heart can hardly function.
My liver is failing.
These are all statements I’ve heard from girls gathered in a circle in a corner quietly talking and periodically glancing up to see if the techs/baby sitters are near. No they aren’t stories to share sorrows or to share scary moments of horror. They are war stories. Stories these girls are proud of and they tell proudly each desiring to one-up the other. Each throwing out a lower and lower weight and a more dangerous story filled with medical equipment, EKG’s, ambulance rides, frantic family members and doctors predicting their death. I’ve heard these stories because I’ve been in on the inside of these war stories. I’m ashamed to say it but in fact I’ve tried to win the game.
It’s a sick, sick twisted component of the eating disorder world. Each girl wanting to prove she is/was sicker than the other. After all, we have to prove to ourselves we deserve help. We have to be the most well liked and admired. We have to show our pain somehow and the only way we knew how was to get the sickest we possibly could. And we have to be the best at something and for many that has been their eating disorder never-mind that being the best of all is being dead.
At my first treatment center I quickly learned the art of telling war stories. And that I had one to contribute. But I also learned it marked you. It marked you as non-recovery orientated, an attention seeker and someone who doen’t want to get well. You may have ‘friends’ but these are the girls who will stab you in the back to prove they were sicker. And you waste your time sitting in the corner telling your story. Everyone at that facility is sick. Really it doesn’t matter one bit what your weight was. What matters is that your life was out of control enough to be sitting after a meal waiting for the 45 minutes to be up so you could make your way to bed where you would be checked on every 15 minutes to make sure you weren’t participating in some ‘ilegal behavior’ such as exercise.
My second treatment stay I went in with the promise no war stories. No telling of how sick I had been in the past. No hints as to my lowest weight or my horror of hospital stays. I was going to be silent on all of that. Take me as I am. I was not going to participate in the sick retelling of ‘whose the sickest one here’. And it aided my recovery in ways that I can’t put into words. I made friends because I wasn’t focused on proving my sick status. I left attention seeking behind and was able to learn that being sick isn’t the way to get the attention and help each person is entitled to.
And now that I’m out of treatment? Now that my body is recovered and I look “normal”. Do I feel a need to tell those war stories? Sometimes yes. Sometimes I get an urge to prove I was one of those sickest girls. But do I? No. Where would it get me? I say I was sick. Does it matter how sick? No. All it matters is that I’m on a path to recovery. I have my ‘sick’ pictures. My pictures that show my bones, my pale face and lifeless eyes. They are in a folder on my computer and someday I’ll be brave enough to delate them but I can tell you now that I will never show them to you. Others make the decision to parade their sick pictures around. Some do so out of a genuine desire to remember where they were and to never return. Other girls? Well, I find it hard to believe that they aren’t simply continuing the war stories of treatment.
But I’ve made my decision. I don’t need to share photos to prove to you I was sick. You can take my word for it and really it’s not that important to this blog anyways. What is important is that I’m in recovery.