The Need for Prevention: Karen’s Story

Karen K.

In that moment, I questioned everything about the definition of healthy and why I was there.  And in a mere second, everything seemed to snap, and I was no longer in control. 

We recently asked our community why eating disorder prevention is important, especially for healthcare professionals. Our new Board member Karen shared her story. 

The eating disorder declared a solid victory that day in my mid-twenties after visiting a reputable medical institution.  Unfortunately, I cannot say that it was the beginning of my lifelong struggle with anorexia.  It, however, turned out to be a pivotal point in this disease.  I had finally mustered up the courage to make an appointment and admit I was really struggling.  It had been 10 years since being officially diagnosed and I still was treading on thin ice. It all started at around age 9 being influenced by my sport of figure skating – the girls, the moms, the “ideal image” of a figure skater.  By 15 and entering high school, the eating disorder really took control. I negotiated with my parents at the time for outpatient treatment though I was a very reluctant patient.   That was a quick fix if anything.  Navigating through college with this lingering was not an easy task and starting in the work world brought a whole new meaning to stress.

So there I found myself at the doctor’s office knowing that deep down that I needed help.  That day the internal medicine physician examined me and at first asked why I was in for a visit. I tried to explain in very broken words my routines and rules around eating; food; weight; the scale and numbers.  My courage was fading and the eating disorder was rising up.  And to throw salt on the fire, the physician continued by saying that girls my age should maintain a “good, low weight.” In that moment, I questioned everything about the definition of healthy and why I was there.  And in a mere second, everything seemed to snap, and I was no longer in control. 

Certainly, if a trained medical professional was saying this to me, then I must have been mistaken to seek assistance for something so trivial.  Where most people may have walked out of that doctor’s office without a second thought, for me living with an eating disorder it took a different tact. It was as if the eating disorder had been given carte blanche license to run the next few years in the most unhealthy manner. 

I spent the next nine years being controlled very tightly by this horrible disease and spiraling out of control. It heightened to a point I was barely functioning at work and in my life.  That time, I went straight to a center specializing in eating disorders. They helped me through back to back in-patient treatments of 60 and 90 days respectively.  It was tough, I admit.  But somehow the 24/7 support and dedicated staff helped me through.  I needed very close care for nearly a year’s time at that point and the well-trained staff helped me to stabilize and get back on my feet again.  It hasn’t always been easy but I know that only because of this solid treatment plan that things eventually improved.

Karen (far left in the picture above) joined us at our Spring Advocacy Day to ask legislators for signatures on the bipartisan letter urging enactment due to slow implementation of adequate training for healthcare professionals.