Some statistics for you:
- Only 10% of people with eating disorders ever get treatment.
- Of those, only 1/3 will get treatment at a facility that specializes in eating disorders.
- 1 in 5 of people diagnosed with AN will die prematurely due to complications of the disease (including suicide).
So when you consider that I’ve been to residential treatment THREE times in as many years, at all places that specialized in eating disorder treatment, I’m pretty damn lucky. Blessed is a better word, honestly. And when you consider that over those years I have met at least 15 people that I consider friends, it’s rather amazing that today was the first time I got news of one of their passing. And while the sparse obituaries never say it, I have only to guess that her anorexia was a contributing factor.
Isabel was my roommate at my first treatment center. We were in a room together directly across from the nurse’s station where the door was left open at night and the blinds on the creepy window that took up half our interior wall were left open. We were never out of the nurses’ sight. She was at high-risk for medical complications (as all my roommates would be – hence their being situated there), but man, did she shine. She had a great sense of humour, which was helpful, because I was a suicidal wreck. Most of the nights, the door was left open because I was the one on 24-hour-watch. Obnoxious, to say the least, but she was so great about it.
We loved doing crossword puzzles together. She was better than anyone I’ve ever met at crossword puzzles, save perhaps my father. Under her careful tutelage, I tried to learn how to knit. (Until the knitting needles were deemed dangerous for me, anyway.) It didn’t matter how terribly I had screwed up a line, she could fix it within minutes. I was completely jealous of her t-shirt collection. Any time I asked, she said she had gotten the t-shirt at a thrift shop. As she got better and her hair fell out before growing again, I would do her hair. I’ll never forget the morning I accidentally burnt her ear with the curling iron. For that matter, she never let me forget.
We lost touch within a few months of treatment. I didn’t have her address and one or both of our phone numbers changed. As I looked this afternoon at my journal from those months of treatment I found a letter I had written to her on a crossword puzzle notecard about six months after I discharged. I didn’t have an address to send it so it continued to lie in wait. Even if I had sent it, the address she would have had to respond to me would have been useless. Within weeks I would be on leave from work to go back into treatment.
My heart has been rubbed raw lately and this news only took off another layer.
I am angry. Angry that I spend time virtually every day worrying about friends I haven’t heard from. Angry that this diseases kills so many brilliant, creative, passionate men and women.
And angry that it still has a pull on me. I am doing better than I have in more than four years and yet it was only yesterday (literally) that I was looking at photos on my computer and wishing for the body that I had before I checked into treatment in April. Only this morning that I tried to silence the hunger and sleep instead.
Fuck you, dictator. Fuck you and your stupid rules and your broken promises and your army of skeletons.