Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Bony King Of Nowhere: My Victories and Losses From Anorexia Nervosa

"Just 'cause you feel it
Doesn't mean it's there."
~ Radiohead, lyrics to The Bony King of Nowhere


Due to my writing process, I cannot guarantee that this post will be free of graphic material. If you think eating disorders are out of vanity, out of ignorance, or a freaking diet plan...this post is for you. If you are STRUGGLING or NEW TO RECOVERY THIS POST IS NOT SAFE FOR YOU TO READ. I love all of you. 

This post is labeled with the following triggers: eating disorder material, self harm, disturbing events, trauma related to medical procedure, trauma related to victimization, suicidal idealization.


They carried me here.
I am 20 years old...and was cradled and carried into this torture chamber like a 2 year old into their mother's arms.

Monitors are shrieking, I cannot find the voice to rally against the nurse who is insisting that this is very serious this time. I attempt to joke about something...anything...stumble over my words and lose my mind.


Dr. K rushes behind the curtain where the nurse is struggling to lift my shirt over my head. My body has turned in its own gravitational force and has deemed me the heaviest disgrace to roam the streets. In my head I am screaming that I can take off my own damn clothes, but she didn't seem to agree.

"How long this time?', Dr. K asks.

He wants to know how long I've been home before the EMTs had to drag me out of my home...

Dead or alive?

I cannot talk. I try desperately to utter something but I feel my breath catching and the ER floor begins to dissolve...


Twenty eight pin pricks in the left arm. There is an oxygen mask over my face which I don't care for. That ALARM WON'T STOP. I reach swiftly for the silence key and tumble out of my cage with a crash. 

Where the hell am I?


"Code Blue, Emergency Department". I look around the ER trying to find the poor soul who is trying to escape this realm so I may pray for them, only to find a team of three doctors and two nurses rushing towards me. I scream for I fear they may trample me like a pack of wild bison only to find that I watch my body, eyes closed, and I am no longer connected.



I wake up at Children's hospital in the PICU, Doc Rob at the foot.

"Potassium level of 1.5. Congratulations D, this is the lowest potassium level I have ever read on a chart that wasn't an autopsy report".

His voice is scathing, driving a dagger into my heart as it twists up into my soul, he slams down my medical file...but not before I see exactly three tears escape his eyes before he storms out.

Those tears he left also enough for me, springing forth as I become aware of the sword placed in my jugular, the pump attached to my tube, as I fight back the primal urge to cry out that I'd missed my chance, waking up on the wrong side of heaven.


At that time, I'd been eating disordered for well over a decade and in the throes of life threatening anorexia nervosa...which is a psychiatric illness rolled into the body, ravaged as cells starve, the heart slows to a crawl, and the chest barely reaches up in hopes of drawing in life giving air.

In childhood I learned how to manage the chaos in my head, my heart, and my home. The shattered promises laying broken on the kitchen floor like the stone chef sitting on the edge of our counter in my young teen years, falling victim to my former step father's drunken wrath.

That stupid statue wasn't the only thing the fell prey to this wasteland I called my home.

The urgency to take up as little space as I could failed. In many more times than not, the thinner the body grew, the greater the absence of space became...and that is what everyone in my life was preoccupied with. All, myself included, forgot over and over that there was still a person amidst  all the empty space I took up.

There was so much I needed to hide from, memories to be rid of, how much I begged God to stop The Maestro who conducted every bite I took, every bite I did not take, and every carefully measured word I gave showed no mercy to me at all. By the age of 14, I'd forgotten whom was whom, so God took a step back and let The Maestro take over what he would.

Which would be every aspect of my life, self, and chucking away all of my loves and everything about me I once thought I understood...the concept of who I was becoming obsolete.

Oddly enough, the only thing I could take solace in during the years of physical, emotional, internal and external anguish was in music and in the words I could write but never dare to utter aloud. But even there, those became tools which The Maestro would take and use against me.

I had nowhere to turn...except into the arms of others who could not escape the iron grip that their tortured mind could not be set free...

...the other girls who I met long ago in a controversial subculture...the pro-anorexics.

The deep seeded need to belong somewhere caught this chance to find others of like mind and maybe find some security, only to find that it was a mirage.

As the rollar coaster did rise and fall, only one this mattered: that empty space and how I could reign it in to control the fact that the absence of what I took up would take up negative space and pull me into another dimension in dire need to go away and never come back. 

When I turned 18 I'd had enough. Timidly I would ask those who could to help. The friends I hadn't lost, the professionals who saw a part of me that I could not: something short of wonderful. A young woman with "potential".

It was that girl...the essence of me...that I could not stand. I hated her more than I did the worst of serial rapists and Adolf Hitler himself.

Perplexing enough was that no one else saw the monster I described myself to be.

How likely could it be, the bit of self that still remained, that I am the only one who is correct and the rest are wrong? When that realization came it was the catalyst for change.

My beginning and downfall wrapped together, with it being up to me with the support of others to begin to tell who was what and what was who.

I became an adult, not knowing a single thing about myself outside of sick. I couldn't tell a person what my favorite color was, what I was interested in, what I did for a living...merely simple things that would leave me stumped as if one had left the Old Testament scrolls before me in the Hebrew, asking me to translate into Spanish and teaching it to a group of Chinese children.

It couldn't be done.

I fled from the hideout at various pro ana webrings and took the hands of the few who, over time, I had learned to trust. It was then the my concentrated effort to get well and stay that way.

We all know the dusk becomes before dawn, but no one told me that in place of the eating disorder I would have to face something more hated within me that the mere thought caused me to sputter bile.

This was my own reflection.

I cut the umbilical chord from my old groups I'd found solace in with other pro anorexic girls and women (I shudder to think at one point my words against doctors and life giving food had magnified the disgust for both of these for younger girls than me) and took the only chance I had before it was too late.

This is where we meet in the introduction. I got much more sick before I could find health. Due to gastroparesis eating was very hard and sometimes impossible. There would be days where I didn't notice that I hadn't eaten or had anything to drink. Because my body had been deprived and stripped of resources a wind blowing too swiftly south would carry me too. As if the bones themselves had turned hollow and if I just spread my arms in the right angle I could become birdlike and fly up above the trees and enjoy the view.

But in this it hit me...

...I didn't need to lose all that I'd gained to reclaim freedom.

All I had to do was agree to fill the empty spaces that I'd created around myself and in this sense, take up less room all along.

This was three days after Philip died in January 2009. I was 21 years old and realized I really, truly had something to offer the world after all. In sharing to a huge crowd how so very unique and one of an kind Philip had been...what does that say about me?

In the end it clicked: perhaps we weren't so different.

Perhaps I mattered too.

You've read what 2013 had been like for me...falling of mountain tops just to scale them over and over again. The goal is to be kind of the mountain -- my mountain. So that I can HELP OTHER PEOPLE, the only thing I realized was my purpose in this life.

It was not a person, a pill, or a public service announcement that brought me to change. Rather, it was coming to terms with myself. This, for me, has only been facing who I am. This work that God wove together for a specific reason. A purpose, a calling that I was designed for.

A calling on my life.

A call I am willing to take and run with it...and not away from it.

I am 26 years old now and even though I no longer participate in behaviors related to anorexia nervosa, The Maestro is still very much there. But he was demoted, playing second fiddle to my first.

It is now my God that has taken to conducting baton, giving a down beat that is slow and steady. I still do tend to rush and sometimes The Maestro tries to cover up my melody to his harmony.

But as of now, I am king of this God constructed mountain and hope for all that others who've fallen prey to a life of eating disorder...perhaps I can be a help to those who are still trying to grapple their own struggles.

Being there for others is what keeps my own desire fueled.

I am now king of the mountain.

No longer am I the bony king of nowhere.

Epilogue: I left the original pro ana subculture at the age of twenty. Out of the three women I was closest to, one has managed to keep fighting for her life, and the other two have passed on in horrid manners both. Eating disorders are nothing to be scoffed at nor are they anything to aspire to be. Now the original movement has all but passed (thank God) and has been replaced by the petty and the pathetic. Still not harmless, still disgusting, but nothing as lethal as everything else once was.

I have lost a total of four "real life" friends to eating disorder, including the man who captured my heart. He took it with him, but I am left with more resolve as my desire to do anything to minimize the suffering of others all the more.

As of this post I have been symptom free for two years, in serious recovery for five...and will always have the thoughts. But my faith, my hope, and my desire for my life outweighs anything that could pose as a potential issue.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all other psychiatric illnesses. A major contributor is cardiac events and suicide. Currently, insurance companies are not required to ensure treatment options for the ones who struggle on.

This post is dedicated to the staff of the Eating Disorders clinic in Kansas City, MO and their diligence in doing their best to help, New Horizons of Jefferson City, MO and their willingness to tackle the art of eating disorder and help me to burn that canvas to ashes, and also in honor of the following: Caroline, Andrea, Karin, Chris, Sarah, Sarah R., Jenah, Amanda T, Tiffany, Nancy, Bobbi, and the multiple others that are too many to name.

Special thanks to Doc Rob, L. Kramer, Cathy M, April, Kathleen, Jason and the family, and all my treasured ones who have stuck by me through the years.

In loving memory of Grady Carl.


  1. Danielle,
    You are amazing, and I thank Him every single day that we had a chance to meet, even if under less than ideal circumstances.

    1. The ones I have met and have the honor of calling them a friend to me has been the biggest reason why I am not sorry for this experience. While living with an eating disorder is horrible, I don't believe there is any other way to meet so many genuinely kind, startling beautiful people...including you <3