Eating Disorders: My Personal Experience

In 2024, Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 26th to March 3rd, aiming to inform the public about eating disorders and bolster support efforts. This year’s theme, “Get in the Know” underscores the importance of awareness. For more information and resources on eating disorders, visit: . To contribute to awareness and to help more people “get in the know,” I share my personal experience with my eating disorder below.

~Annie Kasler, Communications Manager, PBGH

What comes to mind when you think about fears? Heights, flying, spiders, rollercoasters…

Back in college, in the early 2000’s, my biggest fear was a grilled cheese sandwich. According to my journal that I kept during the first few months of treatment, a grilled cheese sandwich was my worst nightmare. I had an eating disorder, anorexia, all through high school. I was overweight as a kid and picked on constantly. (One kid in 5th grade asked me if my parents had to put a wide load sign on our car.)

Around 9th grade I decided to try to lose some weight. It started the typical way – exercise and different eating habits. But then it became an obsession. I didn’t control my eating, my eating controlled me. I tried a few therapists, but nothing stuck. And if I am being honest, I did not want to get better at that time. I did not want to gain weight.  

When I went away to college, naturally it only got worse. I became thinner, only eating soft pretzels and frozen yogurt. It all came to a head the summer before my junior year of college. My brother-in-law stepped in to give me a much-needed wake-up call.  

My eating disorder was now affecting his kids, my niece and nephew. It was either I agreed to get help, or I would not be able to see them anymore. The tough love worked, and I will be forever grateful. He saved my life. Shortly after, my Mom, Dad, and I were driving down to Pittsburgh so I could be assessed at Western Psych. Our goal was to do an inpatient program – to be admitted into their eating disorder floor.  

I was down to 98 pounds during that visit. The assessment said I needed to be admitted. The insurance company thought otherwise. They would only cover the stay if I weighed 97 pounds or under. I vividly recall the woman from HR speaking on the phone with the insurance company. Sarcastically, she asked if I should run around the block a few times to lose the final pound they deemed necessary for me to be admitted. I don’t remember what she did – but whatever she did, it worked.

Within the next few weeks, my mom was driving me back down to Pittsburgh so I could officially be admitted into the eating disorder program. Going by my journal, this was on August 20, 2002.

Our days were very structured – we had group meetings, meals and snacks were always at the same time, etc. Each patient had a different calories intake goal for the day. We worked with a nutritionist to help us achieve our goal and alleviate our fears around food. She made food less scary.  My journal is filled with what I ate at each meal, including little notes like “Grilled Cheese – FEAR FOOD!” or “Grilled Cheese – it got a little easier.”

About once a week, the team of primary doctors at Western Psych would visit each patient’s room to discuss their treatment. During one of these visits, I conveyed to the team my genuine desire to recover. I will never forget the look of shock that ran over their faces. They told me they usually never heard that from the patients in this unit. The fear of weight gain was THAT immense.  

I stayed in the in-patient program until September 2, 2002. With one brief trip home on August 30th to visit my dad in the hospital. I was discharged on the 2nd, shortly after that visit home, because my dad passed away. After some time at home, my treatment team decided I would go back to Western Psych, but this time in the out-patient program. I stayed at a nearby family house and went to the outpatient unit each day, Monday to Friday. The days were pretty much the same structure as in-patient.  

While reading through my journal, one big thread (not counting the fear of grilled cheese) was trying to explain my eating disorder to my friends and family. It is incredibly difficult to articulate and likely even more challenging to comprehend. In one journal entry, I recounted my attempt to convey it to a vising friend: 

For those who have a loved one struggling with an eating disorder, my biggest piece of advice is to speak up. Having the conversation will undoubtedly be challenging, but at some point, something will resonate with them. The second piece of advice is to be there. I don’t know where I would be today without my support system, my village. My mom and dad, my sister and brother-in-law were at the core. My aunts and uncles who stepped in when needed. My friends who wrote, called, stopped by, and sent care packages. It all added up and meant something. I am here today because my brother-in-law spoke up. I am here today because my village was present.   

Comments (1)

  1. Bobbie

    You are very courageous Annie so sorry that you had to experience that. If you got through that you can get thru anything. Love ya Bobbie.

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