Stories of Hope

Without Struggle There Is No Progress
By Shanel Daudy

My name is Shanel Daudy. I'm Jewish, 17 years old and I love skating, writing poetry, and animals. After suffering from Anorexia, I am currently living life according to the Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
This is my story:
In ninth grade, I found myself occupied with making new friends, getting excited for trips, and getting used to high school life. These were the normal teenage thoughts that gave me something to look forward to during the year but slowly those joyful high school thoughts were replaced by ones that left me feeling unhappy with myself. In the midst of tenth grade, the only thing I was occupied with was the way I looked. I started comparing myself to models in magazines, and set unrealistic goals for myself. The majority of my thoughts were focused on finding a new, easier way to diet; a way that would result in ultimate happiness and everlasting peace of mind. Summer came around and I went to sleep-away camp. With not much control over exercise, the only thing left to do was to restrict. Camp ended, and when I returned home, I thought the negative thoughts were gone, since I stopped restricting. However, during my junior year, these negative thoughts crept up on me again when I found a calorie counter app on my Android, and soon that was all that I was thinking about. I came back to my habits of restricting, and my hobby became running around with my app, scanning everything I ate. My friends and parents looked at me like I was crazy and told me that I looked silly doing that. Ignoring their opinion, I felt like it was important to me because deep down it gave me some sort of hope that there was a way to lose weight. I felt like it was my friend who was there to fulfill my wish of being thin.
 Soon I couldn't go through a meal without knowing how many calories I was consuming. As I continued to restrict more and more, my actions became more obvious. I was constantly sad for no apparent reason, and would get angry very quickly. One night, I came home and found my parents looking through my garbage can.  I was so mad at them: "How dare they look at my stuff?!” I thought. Right away, my mom looked at me and told me how my face looked different. I thought she was exaggerating, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I honestly didn’t see anything different. I brushed her off, telling her how everything was fine, that I was fine. However, I was not fine and I did notice changes in my body; I reached a point where it hurt to sleep, since all I was lying on were my bones. I longed for warmth because all I ever felt was the cold winter seeping through my body. During those days, I completely isolated myself from my friends and family, I was abnormally cold, and I was always feeling depressed.  I was truly miserable.  But, hope was closer than it seemed, when a speech was given at my school about eating disorders.
Two women shared their stories, and a psychologist explained what eating disorders were all about. During the speech, I felt like everything was directed at me because I was going through the issues that were being described. There were two conflicts going on in my head: Wake up from denial and get help, or continue with my disorder and have the power to restrict. The hardest part for me in choosing to get help was that it would require me to stop restricting, which would mean I would stop losing weight. I couldn’t see myself giving up the actions that I felt were already a part of me. However, the speech helped me come to the realization that if I didn’t want to live a miserable life, I needed to reach out for help. After much debate, I went to my parents and told them that I thought I had a problem. They contacted my doctor and got me a psychologist.
Transitioning into therapy was not easy. I had to commit myself to go once a week and talk about my problems. Talking about my problems made me feel weak; I wasn’t used to discussing flaws that I had buried deep down within me. It’s hard to share the issues that you’re going through and to entrust one person with the details of your personal life. As difficult as it was to take that step, it left me feeling like I had removed the burdens from my heart.
I remember still experiencing some forms of denial throughout therapy.. I convinced myself that I was never too skinny to have an eating disorder. Over time I learned that weight is not the determining factor of someone having an eating disorder. I remember trying very hard to convince my psychologist that there was no reason for me not to fast on our fast day. "I've never not fasted!” I argued. She responded with "You've never been this anorexic!” Hearing that word associated with me punctured some holes through my wall of denial. Things were spiraling out of control and I started sinking into depression. One day, I was so depressed that I was debating with myself whether I deserved to live or not.  My psychologist informed me that I needed a higher level of treatment.
I attended Long Island Jewish Hospital's eating disorder partial hospitalization program. I attended group therapy every day, and did all kinds of activities to help me understand the feelings that I was experiencing. Being in this program helped me because it was an opportunity to focus only on my eating disorder, as opposed to other forms of stress like school work. Support group members taught me how to learn to appreciate my body, and how important it is to take care of it. They highlighted the fact that society is wrong to make thinness sound like it’s the most valuable thing in life. I slowly accepted the fact that these people knew what they were doing, and that if I ever wanted to live again, I needed to trust them.

The goals that I am working towards accomplishing are to be secure in rationality, secure in sanity, secure in self-satisfaction, self-love, and self-confidence, secure in feeling worthy and secure in the belief that I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it.
Oscar Wilde once said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Today I am learning to live, to do the things I love, and to think about my future.

 

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