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Memoir of a Girl Who Lived to Prove Others Wrong

Updated on October 6, 2016
Kathleen Odenthal profile image

Currently working as a debt specialist for the top law firm nationwide, Kathleen has been perfecting the art of the sale for over a decade.

The Reality of an Eating Disorder


They Told Me I Would Always Be Fat - So I Proved Them Wrong

I started defying odds when I was just a child. For the purpose of this memoir, defying the odds refers to times in my life when I proved everyone in my life wrong. That was my M.O. I never listened to authority, I couldn't understand the concept of rules, and I never felt like I belonged.

When I was young I was a slender girl, active and heavily involved in sports. Many people called me a tomboy, but I didn't notice. I grew up with a loving mother and father, as well as two brothers, but my mother was always working - so my main influences were all men.

By the time I hit puberty, my weight and my body changed drastically. I no longer had the metabolism of a little girl, and I started to transform from the boyish figure of my youth, to the curvier body of a young woman.

The weight gain continued and continued. Emotionally, I was a black-hole - and I learned quickly that food filled that whole for a short time. I ate and I ate and I ate. One day, I looked in the mirror and I was disgusted. Tears began to trickle down my cheeks, soaking the floor beneath me.

Something had to change.

Instead of eating, I started running. I ran and ran. My weight started to plummet. First I lost ten pounds, then I lost twenty, then thirty and forty pounds. Much to my surprise, I found that the feeling of hunger was just as successful at filling that black-hole as food used to be.

By the time I was fifteen years old, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and shipped off to my first treatment center.

Addiction After Addiction, I Continued to Try to Fill Holes that Plagued Me


It is easy for a parent to blame themselves when their child goes through a struggle like mine. This book provided insight into my disease and helped my mom rea

They Told Me That I Would Die - So I Proved Them Wrong Again

The next few years of my life was about defying doctors orders and flabbergasting the medical community. Quickly after I got out of treatment, my eating disorder worsened. Between the age of 15 and 18 I had been admitted to the hospital eight times for my anorexia, and I had been in at least five residential treatment centers. Every time I went in to treatment I was in worse condition than the time before.

When I was done my fourth stint at the Somerset Medical Center's eating disorder unit, the head psychiatrist on the unit and one of the leaders in the field of eating disorders in the United States, looked me in the eye and told me that my eating disorder would kill me.

I was diagnosed with chronic anorexia - a diagnosis that meant that I was no longer worth the time and effort of professionals. A diagnosis that meant that I would die, and that I would die soon.

That was almost ten years ago. I am not going to say that things got better after that conversation with the doctor, as a matter of fact, things got worse. But here I am today, and I am still very much alive.

They Told Me I Couldn't Drink More - Still I Proved Them Wrong

At the age of 18 I started drinking alcohol. When I entered college I had only drank a handful of times, but this would quickly change. My freshman year of college I was, without a doubt, a hardcore binge drinker. I was at the bar every night and the quantity of alcohol that I drank was so large that I became known on campus for my reckless behavior and disregard for the rules.

After my first two semesters at Fordham, I had to be hospitalized four times for alcohol poisoning. By my third semester I had to leave school for medical reasons - my drinking had caused ulcers to coat my the interior of my stomach.

I came home from college having to face the reality that after drinking for only a little over one year, I was an alcoholic.

Voices in the Darkness

They Told Me I Couldn't Stop Drinking - Yup, I Proved Them Wrong

When I was 20 I stopped my rotation of eating disorder treatment centers and replaced them with drug and alcohol focused rehabs. By the age of 24 I had been in treatment for either my eating or my drinking more than 20 times. I went to Utah, I went to Arizona, I went to Oklahoma, I went to Pennsylvania, I went to California and then I went to Tennessee - all trying to chase the dream of recovery - the false illusion of a "normal life."

Sometimes I spent one month in treatment, other times I spent one year. Sometimes I finished the program, other times I was kicked out for my behavior. I still hadn't grasped the concept that life was not a game, and that I was not immortal.

It wasn't a treatment center that got me to stop drinking, nor was it the rooms of AA that sobered me up. It was the moment I realized that I was surrounded by "friends" who didn't care about my well being, people who didn't even know the real Kathleen.

I was 24 when I stopped drinking, and although I occasionally have a drink now and then, I no longer view myself as a woman with a drinking problem, I no longer view myself as an alcoholic.

My Quest for Inner Peace


Eating disorders are so misunderstood. Even I didn't understand what was happening to my mind and my body. Stories like this one helped me realize that I wasn't

They Told Me I Couldn't Spiral Down Further - So I Continued to Dig

My early 20s weren't only rocked by alcoholism and anorexia, no, that would have been easy. When I was 21 years old I developed a massive addiction to cocaine - the only drug that would takeover my life to such a degree that I prayed every night for death. I stole from others to fuel my addiction, I lied to family to fuel my addiction, and eventually I chose to live on the streets, just to fuel my addiction.

It didn't take me long to realize that cocaine was a huge problem for me. In fact, I think I knew the moment I first tried it that this drug would lead to my destruction.

I developed a habit that cost me over $500 a day. Soon I began stepping up my crime game, stealing identities rather than clothes from the local mall. There was nothing, and I mean nothing, that I would not do to get high.

When Life Gained Meaning, I Gained Strength

They Told Me I Would Never Find My Way Out - So I Started to Climb

When I was 24 things began to change in my life. After a long, hard look in the mirror, I realized that death was not far from my doorstep. I realized that the people I had surrounded myself with were bringing me down, rather than lifting me up. I knew things had to change if I ever wanted to recover from the addictions that plagued me, so I made a decision to change.

I stopped going out completely, I stopped answering texts and phone calls, I locked my door and only left when I had something incredibly important to do. And by important I mean job interviews and school - not running out of drugs or alcohol.

Eventually the phone stopped ringing and people stopped asking about me. That was what I needed - to fall off of everyone's radar. It was the only way I could survive. When the time came, I moved from that apartment to a different part of town, away from the bars and the chaos. I enrolled in school and started to work real jobs that didn't require me to break or bend the law.

One step after another, slow as they might have been, I inched forward towards a better life.

Inside the Head of an Anorexic

This is a book I published in hopes to educate the public about eating disorders and mental health issues.

They Told Me My Life Would Always Be Difficult - So I Found My Own Inner Peace

I have had dozens of doctors tell me that I would live a life ruled by addiction - be it drugs, alcohol or food. I have been turned away by treatment centers for a case that was too severe. I was dismissed as just another junkie with no regard for human life. I proved all of them wrong.

It wasn't easy by any stretch, but now at the age of 27, I can call myself a woman in recovery. It took time, but I was finally able to realize that all of the years I spent running, I was only running from myself.

Whether it was food, alcohol or cocaine, they all served the same purpose - they allowed me to neglect any true self-reflection. It wasn't until I was 25 years old that I finally started to try to find out who I really was, and who I was meant to be.

After years of therapy, residential treatment and psychiatric hospitalizations, it wasn't a doctor or a therapist who helped me find my path - it was me. And I can honestly say that today I am happier and healthier than I have ever been in all my years on this earth.

I have an honest job, I am finishing up my degree and I am engaged to be married. I have created a successful photography business that I can call my own, and I have started to make a footprint in the writing industry. My life is not where I want it to be in ten years, but it is what I want it to be in this moment.

Much of my success in recovery came from self-acceptance and a long quest searching for inner peace. I had to realize that we all fall down sometimes, but instead of staying down, today I learn why I fell, then pick myself back up. I had to stop being so hard on myself for every minor flaw in my life.

I realized that if I ever wanted to be able to accept the love of others, I had to learn how to love myself.

Today I Live a Happy, "Normal" Life

© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal


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