Struggling to Overcome Anorexia
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A high school junior from Berkeley, California, recently became part of an alarming statistic. Three years ago, Lauryn Silverman started to suffer from anorexia nervosa, an illness that affects one of every 100 high school and college-age girls. People suffering from it think they're heavier than they are and have an intense fear of gaining weight. From Youth Radio, Lauryn Silverman shares her struggle with anorexia.
When I was 13, the image of the perfect young woman began to form in my mind and unfortunately I looked nothing like her. This raised the question: How could I be special? It's not like I woke up one morning and decided the answer was to stop eating. My diet just kept getting more restrictive, like a half cup of cottage cheese for dinner. I was performing a disappearing act and for a while no one noticed I was vanishing. By the time they did, I had gotten used to the friendship anorexia provided me. It promised to make me feel unique.
In a matter of months, I went from 95 pounds to 60 and was losing my ability to think straight. On a Wednesday morning in March of 2003, when I should have been in school, my parents took me to a nutritionist and then to a doctor who said my pulse and heart rate were dangerously low. Without a change in my behavior, I would have to go to the hospital. I had tried to get better on my own, but it didn't work. So I just surrendered. That night, I was admitted to the hospital.
March 21st: Around 2:30 AM I was lying in bed shivering and alone. Since my heart was weak, when I finally fell asleep, it slowed down too much. So I woke to the sound of the heart rate monitor alarm going off. The nurse rushed into my room clutching a heat blanket in one hand and a nasty, high-calorie milk shake in the other. I thought I was going to die right then and there.
April 4th: I waited for the nurse to come and draw my blood like she had every day for two weeks. I wore only a paper gown and tugged at the uncomfortable, scratchy edges with my boney fingers. The nurse made me stand up to take my blood pressure and I got dizzy. I lost my balance in front of my friends who were visiting. It was so embarrassing. The memories of my three weeks in the hospital are really vivid, but now I can't even imagine that person was me.
April 11th: My parents began to watch me at home like the nurses did in the hospital. So there I was at the dining room table for one of my endless meals. I watched the clock flip its numbers like a deck of cards, watch the food on my plate, look down at it as if it were the problem. Watch my parents stare hopefully at me, dicing and rearranging my carrots, steak, turkey sandwich with extra cheese, slice of butter and toast on my oversized plate. I glanced back at the clock, back at the plate. Took one bite, one small bite, then another and another. Then I laughed. For the first time in over a month, mouth curved into a wide, open smile as I realized what I had done. I had begun to defeat anorexia. Begun to conquer my old companion.
INSKEEP: That's the story of Lauryn Silverman. She is 16 years old. The story was from Youth Radio, and you're listening to NPR News.