This year, I’m celebrating 3 years in recovery from my eating disorder. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I should say about this process as I celebrate 3 years of freedom. I’ve replayed the day that I finally surrendered in treatment over and over in my head. So, I feel like I should share the events of that day:
Irritated by my treatment team, I spitefully quit eating that week in treatment. For the longest time, I was able to convince myself that my eating disorder wasn’t serious because I wasn’t underweight. Media gives us a singular image of what an eating disorder looks like, and it wasn’t me. I remember seeing my therapist that day. I was on a heart monitor at the time, because the doctors were trying to pinpoint a problem with my heart. When I sat down, my therapist said, “So I hear you’re not eating. Here you are with a cardiac condition, and you aren’t eating,” to which I responded adamantly, “I do NOT have a cardiac condition.” Little did I know that 30 minutes later, I would be eating my words. After I parted with my therapist, I started having palpitations. I went to the nurse with the problem, and called the heart monitoring center. They registered the problem and told me to call an ambulance immediately. When the EMTs got there, they frantically monitored my heart and came to the conclusion that I needed to be rushed immediately to the hospital. They were frenzied in getting me into the ambulance, and as they were, a peace came over me. I told myself that freaking out at this moment would not help, and that this experience was either going to kill me, or teach me something. So, with that in mind, I relaxed (as much as you can with a heart rate of 250) and accepted what was happening. When I got to the hospital, nurses and doctors rushed to me, and explained to me what was about to happen. They were going to inject me with something that would stop and restart my heart. They explained how it would feel and exactly what would happen. The nurse found a vein immediately, and commented, “I don’t know why they couldn’t find a vein in the ambulance… there’s one right here” They injected me and lifted my arms in the air. My heart went from beating out of my chest to stopping abruptly. I could feel myself starting to slip away, and my arms going limp, when I heard them call out, “Noelle! Noelle! Stay with us, Noelle!” I remember being impressed with the fact that they were calling me by my real name and not my first name.Then slowly, like a treadmill starting to speed up, my heart started beating again, this time, normally.
Needless to say, the experience didn’t kill me, but it did indeed teach me something. It taught me several things actually. It taught me that you can do serious damage to your heart with an eating disorder over the course of 15 years, even without realizing it. I learned that I needed to listen to my treatment team, because they were just trying to save my life, and that if I really wanted to get better, I would need to do exactly as they told me, and eat exactly what they told me to eat. I vowed to take my treatment more seriously and to eat 100% of what they gave me, no matter what. February 4, 2012 when I sat down to lunch I giggled to myself to see that my lunch was a bowl of soup, full of red peppers, which I hate. I ate every last bite. It wasn’t easy, but when it was gone, I felt accomplished. I had done just as I vowed to do. Since that day, I have never looked back. I wish I could say I never struggle, but every time I eat is a challenge in one way another. Some days it is easy, and some are harder. Whenever I’m tempted to act on an eating disorder urge, I think back to that day. Remembering it helps me remember the power of a wake up call straight from God. This isn’t a joke, it is life or death. I need to take recovery seriously, every day. I need to nourish my body and give it the respect and care that it spent so many years lacking.
So rehashing the story helps me remember, and maybe sharing it will help someone out that realize the same things I realized that day. It is so important that we take care of ourselves. The human body is fiercely resilient, but we only get one in life, so we must care for it while we have it.