Strangers Take Over Our Lives
During Ellen's initial hospitalization for anorexia in May 1998, I was like the mother in the first story of this chapter: an observer, stiff and uncomfortable in psychiatric units. By December of that same year, Ellen had returned to the hospital three more times, spending the better part of six months in various institutions as her weight dropped lower and lower.
Then, at the beginning of 1999, something changed for no reason I could identify. With weekly visits to her therapist, nutritionist, physician, and support groups, she was able to stay in school and work during the summer, although her anorexia continued and getting her to eat was a daily struggle. Compared to what followed, this was a relatively happy time.
In the fall of 1999, she entered tenth grade and began what has been one of the worst periods of our lives. Ellen's eating disorder took over again, only now she was considered to have anorexia: binge-purge type, because she ate and threw up, still managing to lose dramatic amounts of weight. Converting to bulimic behavior was very common in anorexics, her doctor told me, and in a way, I was relieved. At least she was eating. Much later, I discovered bulimia was more life threatening than anorexia due to the sudden electrolyte imbalances that can occur.