Trigger Warning: Mention of suicidal ideation
I don’t recall exactly when my battle with anorexia started, but I seem to remember other people noticing it when I was about fourteen. Maybe the fact that I had always been unhealthy due to multiple medical conditions that caused me to have to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, almost monthly for often painful or at least uncomfortable tests to try and give a treatable diagnosis; a process that seemed to always be in vain. Anyway, somewhere in there I developed anorexia, maybe because of my history of sexual abuse (see my other post on depression), but I think that mostly it stemmed from the lack of control that I felt over my own life, I was at the mercy of doctors, nurses, etc. I could be poked and prodded, in rounds of tests after tests after tests that never seemed to be able to find anything, or at least anything that they didn’t already know.
I started losing weight and by the time that I was fifteen I was noticeably emaciated. I was 5’10” and 97lbs. – That’s roughly a B.M.I. Of 13.9… I’m sure there are starving children in Africa that have a higher B.M.I. than I did at the time.
In the summer of 2003 though things came to a head when I was seen by Gastroenterology at British Columbia Children’s Hospital (BCCH) who sent me immediately for an emergency consult with the surgeon, and they had me scheduled for the next week for a surgery to put in a [semi] permanent feeding tube directly into my stomach, so that I could be tube fed as they were worried that I would die if my weight went any lower. It ended up being two surgeries. I had the first one in August 2003 and as the first one was quite successful they did a second surgery in February 2004 to put in a much more permanent tube and valve.
I wont lie to you; I hated it… It sucked balls. It was the lamest thing ever… Well maybe not quite that bad, I’m sure you could find things that are more lame, but you’d have to really be looking. It hurt, it expelled a kind of mucous that you had to keep away from the hole, and the external valves had to be replaced every few months by the doctor. When they replace the external valve it hurts, it burns… I imagine it feels a lot like it would feel to get shot!
Anyway, despite my efforts to the contrary, such as trying to purge the tube feeding formula every morning or shutting off the flow so the pump had to be reset I gained weight. The tube was removed after my first psych ward admission when I was sixteen, for suicidal ideation. Who wouldn’t want to commit suicide if they were being tube fed against their will! Anyway, I was able to maintain my weight at that time and so I had the tube removed… Though I still have a scar on my stomach to show for it.
Since then my weight has never dropped below around 130lbs. That being said a woman who is 5’9” should weigh about 145lbs, so I was still below normal, however I was no longer sickly and emaciated.
However, all told, I wasn’t fixed. I still had the eating disorder, and I still was just figuring out that my depression and self-loathing were caused by a desire to live as a female. Even though I never went below a low normal for weight again, the symptoms of my eating disorder continued, and I joined pro-anorexia websites and forums that of course didn’t do anything other than fuel the fire.
My eating disorder persisted through my first years of college. I remember being in a first year English course and fainting from lack food. I was sent to an Eating Disorders out-patient program by my family doctor at the time, and I went with this therapy for about eighteen months until I realized or if you want to phrase it this way you could say I accepted that I was transgender.
Fast forward a few years and here I am now. Again I wont lie to you, I still get the urge to not eat, or to not eat properly, and I still sometimes indulge those feelings. Never to the point of a full-blow relapse but I have been close at times. I believe that an eating disorder is a lot like a substance abuse problem. For the rest of my life when something stressful comes up the first thing that I am going to think about or fantasize about is not eating, is restricting my food intake in order to compensate for the loss of control that I feel due to external circumstances. I think that I will have to live with those temptations for a long time, I don’t think that they will ever go away completely.
A tiny scar on my stomach though is not the only thing that I have to show for my ten years of anorexia; I was so malnourished at one point that my body in its search for calcium ate away the enamel of my teeth, to such a point that I need to have dentures that I cant afford and so I live with tooth pain every day waiting for each one to literally fall out of my head.
Anyway, that’s my story…