When I returned to Florida, I was thin but miserable. One of the fun “benefits” of anorexia, I would learn later in life, is depression. Turns out, when you don’t eat, you get sad–and fast. (I didn’t see the correlation then, but it’s more than apparent now.)
Before I left for England, I had begun dating a much older graduate student, and we managed to make do with the Atlantic Ocean between us…but in person, I wasn’t emotionally ready to be in a relationship. In fact, I was scared to death that I was inadequate–mainly because I knew I wasn’t thin enough. He wanted to do “normal” things, like go out for Pad Thai or stay home and cook me an amazing meal. But if I ate those things, I would have to do extra exercise to make up for it. And then I’d have to make a choice between exercise and going on day trips to amazing places like St. Augustine, or even simply staying in and reading poetry.
So I broke up with him.
I was miserable. I dropped all but my required classes. I stayed in my room and listened to NPR and Internet comedy radio in bed all day and night. I cried. A lot.
Eventually, I dragged myself to the campus health center and saw a psychiatrist. For the first time in my life, I had to go on depression medication. Unfortunately, the list of “rare” side effects on the bottle decided to manifest themselves as soon as I swallowed the pills–and I tried a few different brands.
That October, I did the only thing I could think of: I bought a dog. Frida (named for the artist, the unibrowed Ms. Kahlo) was (and is) the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. She gave me a reason to live.
I was also fortunate to have friends who wouldn’t let me languish in complete loneliness for long. Although we are no longer friends, I owe a lot to a girl named Jo, who refused to let me stay in my apartment, stewing in self-pity. Throughout the fall semester, she repeatedly showed up on my doorstep and forced me outside. For that, I will always be grateful.
That January, she dragged me nearly against my will to a a party at our friend Ryan’s apartment. I ended up having an amazing time (despite the fact that I was the only sober person in the room), and the experience convinced me to step outside of my comfort zone and back into the world of the living.
I started going out more and exercising less. I still refused to eat anything except my regularly scheduled meals, but I was at least more comfortable around other people while they ate. I was asked to be the dramaturg on a mainstage theatre production. I started my thesis. The University’s student-run theatre club accepted the play I wrote in England into a new works festival. I looked forward to rehearsals and made new friends. I also started gaining weight.
By the time I graduated in May, I was back to 125 pounds and off of the depression medication.*
ED was lying dormant, and I was moving home.
*P.S. Do not ever take Effexor, at least if you plan on getting better. The withdrawal included brain shivers, and, yes, they are as bad as they sound.