The Turning Point In Her Recovery: Carnation

Today is the final day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2009.

Following is a story written by Maria. Dieting since the age of 8, she was anorexic and bulimic by age 13. Now 17 years old, she's looking forward to April when she will celebrate a year in recovery. She says she's proud of her recovery but fights daily to stay in it.

She wrote this story after a stay in an ED facility. She calls it her "turning point." Her wish is that others may read it, find hope, and be inspired to take steps towards recovery.


7:59, 8:00 , 8:01 . Even though the clock was across the room, the tick of its hands could still be heard by the small girl sitting down at the table in the midst of a showdown. A showdown of epic proportions, one that Clare could not lose.

There the food sat in all its glory screaming and tempting her to eat it, but she, with all her determination, refused. Not because the food looked gross; in fact, it looked delic

ious. The two bran muffins were golden brown with pieces of oats protruding out at the top making it look like the petals of a sunflower. The bright crimson apple was firm to the touch, and even though Clare dared not eat it, she knew it would be crisp just the way she liked it. Even the small Cheerios box seemed to smile warmly at her, as if saying that it was okay to eat its small grainy circles.

But Clare knew better. She knew that the bran muffins were carefully disguised mounds of fat. That the Cheerios were hidden calories. And the apple, though it looked good, was just another way of saying that she really did need this food to survive. Clare refused to believe it, and just glared at the food as if her staring might burn it into the table and make the whole tray disappear.

8:14, 8:15 , 8:16 . “Good morning, Clare,” smiled the nurse until she spotted the tumultuous war that was going on between Clare and her untouched tray of food. “Have a bad night?” the nurse inquired with her sweet voice that sounded as if she might truly care. Clare could only nod a slow, depressive yes and let the strands of her long

sandy brown hair fall into her face. I am so sick of eating food, Clare thought. I don’t need it; I never did. I can’t gain any more weight! I’m humongous! I really should go to a fat camp and lose weight, not come here and gain weight!

“Perhaps,” continued Cindy, not noticing the war going on inside the girl’s head, “maybe I should go find a barrette and pin that lovely hair up so we can see

that pretty face of yours?”

“No, that’s okay,” Clare quickly stammered looking up for only an instant to peer at the nurse with only one eye. Clare quickly replaced each strand in front of her face again, happy that the safety blanket of her hair would continue to provide her with comfort.

“Well, you better start eating,” reminded the nurse as she walked out

the door to her desk again.

But you can’t eat, shrieked the voice inside Clare’s head! You’re a fat and worthless pig! You don’t deserve the food! And do you really want to get any bigger?

You’re right. I can’t get any bigger, Clare acknowledged the voice within. I won’t eat this! I am determined not to! No more fat! No more fat Clare!

8:20, 8:21 , 8:22 . “Good morning, Clare,” said a pretty brunette college student with piercing eyes that had finally started to sparkle again. An older woman with sandy blonde hair and a big smile walked in with her.

“Morning, Shannon , morning Sarah!” exclaimed Clare with as much enthusiasm as she could muster for such a bad day. “How are you? Did you both have a good night?”

“It was alright,” started Shannon . “I talked to my brother and that went really well. A lot better than I had expected.”

“Awww well, I’m glad to hear that! I’m happy that went well for you,” said Clare this time with true enthusiasm.

“Mine was alright too,” stammered Sarah, “I have a bad headache, though, because I haven’t had any coffee in the last three days and it’s killing me! I guess I really do have an addiction to it.”

“I’m sorry, that sucks. I hope you start to feel better soon! I’m not having a good day either…” the lost teen continued with a mesmerizing sigh and a stare towards her untouched tray.

The two fellow patients looked at the food and knew exactly what she meant. Clare had been sitting there for half an hour without touching a single thing on her tray. It was go

ing to be a horrible day, but the failure was masked by the ringing pride that voiced in her head.

It was the tenth day of intense treatment and Clare could not take it anymore. Every day three meals had to be eaten and Clare could not remember a time when she had eaten three meals in… well, as far back as she could remember at the moment. At least she knew it had been a long time ago, way before all this mess had even started. This was life for Clare and she had become comfortable with it.

But people started to notice the strange little things that Clare did— the cutting of her food into small pieces, only eating fruits, taking hours to eat one thing. However, soon Clare’s friends discovered her nasty little companion, and so that was how she soon began going to the hospital every day.

The walk into the building had been torturous. Slowly pushing herself through the large old building, she ambled forward with her head hanging low, reeking of low self-esteem and non existent self-confidence.

The only good thing about the hospital was the nurses. Clare always chatted with them before they had to take her vitals and weigh her. She never minded having her low vitals taken; they were just another delightful reminder of the great job she was doing. But getting weighed was agony. The sluggish movement of the nurse’s fingers over the dials were wat

ched for any signs of a mistake that might have been made. Silent prayers were made in hopes that the numbers would not go up. If she was lucky, they would go down. But Clare was never lucky.

Trying to calm herself from the weigh in, Clare grabbed her manil

a folder and proceeded to fill out charts on the crazy emotions that she could not even identify. How could she possibly know if she felt anxious or worried or mad? After finishing, a slow pause came. The worst part was about to come. It was time to get breakfast.

Shuffling towards the cafeteria, Clare walked as slowly as she could, like a death row inmate on the final walk to meet the end. Not wanting to be seen or heard, she silently entered into the scary food emporium. The next step was to check the menu. Grabbing it with much hesitation at what would have to be eaten that day, Clare, looking calm on the outside but having a

panic attack inside, reached out and grabbed the small white list. Amazing how much distress could be caused by such a small piece of paper! And today was worse than usual!

After having gained six pounds in three days, Clare could feel the fat engulfing her entire body; it started to feel like she was being suffocated from the inside. She had been told that food was necessary for her well being and health, but it couldn’t be true. No way was

food necessary. Not now, not ever! Food made her fat— obese people are not healthy!

After a long breath Clare worked up the courage to look at the deadly choices of food she would have to consume for breakfast. The prognosis was awful. The calorie count had been upped to twenty-one-hundred! A torturous amount. Insane, actually. How could one human possibly eat this much in one day? Clare whined in her head. That’s seven hundred calories at every meal, which is way more than I would even eat in a day! Are they trying to

make me obese? Because it surely will happen with that many calories every day!

Looking calm as usual on the outside, Clare silently walked over to the glass refrigerator. Maneuvering her arm carefully, she tried desperately not to brush the nauseating whole and chocolate milks on her way towards the fat free skims. Once her hand was safely away from the loathsome products, she carefully weighed each skim in hopes of one being li

ghter than the rest. Maybe one has fewer calories then the others, she hoped desperately. Walking over to the muffins she noticed two were needed for today. Peering over into the brown box filled with frightening and appalling carbs, Clare examined each muffin carefully looking from all angles to find the tiniest one. On to the apples, the only safe food.

Not wanting to touch all of the apples, Clare moved the scary bananas and oranges to the side first and then glared at the array of fruits until she found the perfect one, a s

mall and crimson Macintosh. Last of all and definitely the worst, she spied the peanut butter, a man made substance consisting of pure fat, sugar, and lard.

Fat! All fat! Clare’s thoughts kept screaming in her head. This is wh

y you are obese, the voices continued, because you are eating pure fat!

I have to grab it. It’s on my meal plan, Clare said, trying to reason with the voice. I’ll take it but I won’t eat it! I promise!

Then just as quietly as she had entered, Clare trudged with her tr

ay back to the little room with cream walls. And there she sat not giving into the food’s allure. Through the nurse’s quiet little pleadings and Shannon and Sarah’s hellos and the picking of their own menus and trays, she knew they would make her eat. The thought made her sick.

8:50, 8:51 , 8:52 . The girls quietly chatted but not as cheerfully or as much as some other mornings. Each girl struggled with her own thoughts that morning, but none was brave enough to admit it. They never could; each was a prisoner in her locked up mind— a place from where each dared not escape, no matter the price.

9:02, 9:03 , 9:04 . “Good morning,” said the heavy-set therapist

named Janine, as she strolled in cheerily with a happy little smile. “Is everyone ready for morning check in?”

“I guess,” replied Shannon . “I can go first this morning, if you want.”

“Sounds good to me,” agreed Janine, with an exasperated smile and eyes half peering at Clare’s food. Slowly, in a half whisper, she remarked, “Clare, can you

please start on your tray?” The small girl looked down and pushed it a little closer to her, but did not touch anything on it, as if the tray was contaminated by a deadly disease. Good job! Her thoughts congratulated. That’s right! Show that food who’s boss!

Shannon slowly started talking about her night. It was eventful and after reciting most of what had happened, Janine meticulously went through each event to show her things that might be done better next time.

“I can go next,” volunteered Sarah after Shannon finished, knowing full well Clare would not be as upbeat about going next. “I just wish I didn’t have this headache,” Sarah started. “It’s hard to stay focused and stay on track with my meal plan.”

Janine again went through the long routine of going through each part of Sarah’s night, looking at the crucial elements as if life depended on them.

“The lack of sleep and the migraines are really starting to get to you. Do you have anything you can take for it?” asked Janine in a worried voice. “You’ve had this headache for a while now.”

“Yeah, I took some stuff but what I’m going to have to do is get some coffee,” stated Sarah. “The coffee here stinks though. It’s pretty nasty! I need to

go and get my Starbucks!”

9:44, 9:45 , 9:46 . “Clare, are you sure that your weight has really gone up six pounds in two days?” questioned Janine after finally hearing about the messe

d up little girl’s night.

“I’m positive!” shrieked Clare, again feeling the fat start to enclose her like a blanket. You’re obese, Clare, obese, her voice shrieked inside of her. Not even worthy to live!

“It’s probably just water weight. It’s not possible to gain that much weight in two days,” Janine stated. “Is this why you’re not eating? Should I just go and get y

ou a meal supplement right away?”

“Isn’t this why most people don’t eat?” Clare sneered sarcastically. “And you might as well get me a Carnation, cuz I’m not eating this!”

“All right, I’ll get you one,” answered Janine a little depressed.

10:00, 10:01 , 10:02 . “Here you go, Clare. I got you strawberry,” the therapist said in a hopeful voice. “You have till 10:30 to drink that.”

“Thanks,” whispered Clare, barely audible. But I’m not drinking that, she thought. Fat people should not have the luxury of drinking shakes.

At least the tray was gone. No more peanut butter, or milk, or muffins—just an icky caloric loaded strawberry Carnation mix, a pretend shake that tastes like someone took cardboard and syrup and blended them all together. The horror tha

t one little drink could really supply all the calories missed at one meal! Disgusting. . .

Crap, thought Clare, as she saw the head therapist Pam walk into the door for the next group, this is not good!

“Good morning everyone,” Pam said in her matter of fact voi

ce. Heading straight for Clare as if on a mission, she pointed, “I see that you have a Carnation, Clare. I’m going to have to have Jessica take you out of the room until you finish that.”

Of course, the one therapist who would not allow this kind of crap to happen would be the therapist for the next group therapy session. At least I get to be with Jessica and not someone else, Clare felt with a twinge of a smile. I really do like her a lot. Jessica has a way about her. She’s terribly funny and always seems to understand, which is us

ually not the case with many of the other therapists. They just don’t get it.

“Hey Clare,” Jessica was calm but looked a little worried, “I hear that you have to finish that. Are you ready to do it? We can both drink our drinks together,” she laughed as she lifted up her Starbucks in all its irony.

“I’m not drinking it,” Clare answered immediately without a mom

ent’s hesitation. “You can drink yours, but I won’t drink mine!”

“Well, for now let’s just go into the other room and talk, okay?”

10:47, 10:48 , 10:49 . “Clare, what’s stopping you from drinking that Carnation?” inquired Jessica. “Why can’t you do it?”

“Well,” Clare started slowly with tears starting to well in her eyes, “I . . . can’t. I can’t drink this. I’m already super fat and I won’t allow myself to get any more obese! I’m a monster!”

“Clare, you are VERY thin. Your body needs this to stay healthy. Can’t you see that those voices that are telling you that you are too fat are actually killing you? They are the enemy, Clare.”

“I know, Jessica, but they’ve always been there for me when no one

else has. They’re always there. They never talk behind my back. And they’ve never failed me. When things were hard they showed me how to forget the pain. And besides, you’re just trying to make me fat.”

“You and I both know that is a lie, Clare. You say the voices have helped you through the pain, but can’t you see how they’ve made your pain worse? They’ve locked you up, and you can’t get out. They’re hiding your beauty from the world and especia

lly yourself! You’ve got to start telling those voices that you are the boss and not them. You are the boss, Clare! Don’t allow them to do this to you. Everything they say is false. It’s okay, Clare, it’s okay that they’re wrong!”

“But they aren’t wrong! This is how I feel. I am a failure! A horrible person! I’m not worthy of food! An imperfect body reflects an imperfect soul! How true that is for me! Can’t you see why I can’t eat when all this is true!?! Why should I even live? I am a worthless person with no future!” Clare’s body seemed to fall back in shock as she realized that th

ose words were starting to allow her to escape from her gruesome prison.

“That is so wrong!” Jessica shot back. “You have so much to give this world, and slowly killing yourself is not the answer! Your body is not a definition of the wonderful person that you are inside! You are a wonderful person Clare! And you have touched so many people in such positive ways. Clare, you have helped every girl here! They improve with your s


“They help me too…” Clare agreed weakly

Silent tears started to fall from Clare’s eyes. The drops floated down like a soft pitter patter rain after a frightening storm. She knew the truth. She had always known it but just never allowed herself to believe it. The truth was painful and it was easier not to believe it. But at that moment for the first time, Clare allowed another person to come into her life—to sav

e her.

Taking a bigger gulp from the Carnation this time, Clare started chatting with Jessica about different things, things that seemed a bit more normal--like the love of black nail polish they both shared and the chill CDs they enjoyed listening to.

Finally coming to the last few sips, Clare burst out with pride to Jes

sica, “I’m done!”

“Good job! I’m really proud of you. You know that, right?” The young girl nodded with twinkling eyes.

How simple a concept, how hard a job, Clare thought. Say no to my voices and drink the Carnation. Easy to say, not easy to do. Every day I am going to have t

o fight off those voices—the ones that say, “You’re ugly. You’re hideous. You’re grotesque. You’re obese. And you’re not worthy of food.” I know I can do this though! It’s going to be an ever lingering struggle, but I’m a fighter and I am going to try!

I guess drinking this Carnation was good for me today. I now sort of see what’s going on. My eating disorder has the power over me. As much as I like to think it’s giving me control, it is really controlling—my whole life! Control over food is not real control.

My so called control has led me here to this place. A place where I am broken down and forced to learn how to pick myself back up again.

“I can’t go on anymore like this Jessica,” Clare remarked with a renewed confidence that surprised even her. “Thank you for everything. You’ve helped me a lot today.”

“I’m proud of you, Clare. You can do this! You can take back control

of your life!”

“I will. . . I will. . .”


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carnation picture


Ana said...

LOVELY story. Carnations sound disgusting, lol - but lovely story.

MrsMenopausal said...

Thanks for commenting, Ana. I don't understand why carnations sound disgusting. They're flowers. lol

MrsMenopausal said...

Though I thanked you in email, I apologize for being late in thanking you here for sharing your story. It's wonderful.
Thank you!