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Memoir of a Girl Who Lived to Prove Others Wrong

Updated on October 6, 2016
Kathleen Odenthal profile image

Kathleen is a 29 year old mom who struggled with anorexia for decades. She is now in recovery & hopes to educate others about this disease.

The Reality of an Eating Disorder

Source

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

Source

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

Source

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 Romano

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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 2 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Sally thank you so much for your kind words. Pieces like this are what I enjoy writing the most because although they are painful, they have the potential to educate those who don't know about eating disorders, and also have the potential to let those with eating disorders know they are not alone

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      This is an extraordinary piece of writing and a very courageous one at that.

      You really have come a long way. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      I am pleased you survived the roller-coaster ride, Kathleen, and can finally be yourself. :) Best wishes to you and your family.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thank you for commenting LongTimeMother. I always received support from my family, I was my own worst enemy and in my opinion, I didn't receive help early enough. I think the stigma around mental health prevents too many people from living a happy life. I think that psychiatry is both under-utilized and over-utilized, and that is a tricky place to be stuck.

      I do believe in a mother's instinct, and I know my mother regrets not acting sooner, not bringing me to a doctor the first time my emotions, mood and actions seemed like a red flag (I was eight at the time). Instead, it wasn't until I was diagnosed with anorexia, one of the few mental illnesses that shows obvious physical signs making it easier to notice, that I started receiving psychotherapy. I was 15 then and I was far gone, lost in my own self-criticizing and paranoid thoughts.

      But at the end of the day, I wouldn't change anything because I don't know where I would be today if I made different choices. Yes, I made poor choices. I made a lot of poor choices, but I grew so much from my mistakes. I am so much stronger, wiser and ultimately, happier than I have ever been, and I see most people my age making mistakes I made years ago, and I am grateful for the obstacles I have faced because now I know my own strength.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

      You're a good writer, Kathleen. I'm sure you'll reach many people with your words. :)

      I find it interesting that you spent so long trying to prove others wrong. Does that mean encouragement did nothing to inspire you, or did you simply not receive encouragement? Did anyone support you along the way saying 'I know you can overcome this.'? (Just wondering, in the interests of mothers who might be looking for answers for helping their own kids.)

      If you had your time again, instead of trying to prove others wrong (with all the heartbreak that caused along the way), what would have been a better goal for you? To prove yourself capable of achieving any goal you set yourself, perhaps?

      Gee, if you could provide other families with a 'line' that might help them, I think that would be a remarkable gift.

      Voted up and all. Thanks for writing it. :)

    • Hankscita profile image

      Sandy 3 years ago from Florida

      Really Excellent Hub. Inspiring. Up-voted and shared.

    • profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago

      Kathleen lol, not obsession. Just telling the truth about you. So blessed to have you in my life.

      :)

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thanks Kenneth! That's such a compliment :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      @ Kathleen, today, June 17, 2:30 p.m., cdst

      You are very welcome. I enjoyed, but was sad at hearing what all you did to arrive where you are now, which I am so thankful you are okay. And THANK YOU for the follow, that means so much to me. And for reading my works, which are not as sensitive and deep as yours, but you might get a laugh or two.

      Stay in touch with me, Kathleen. You are a very special and talented writer.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Wow thank you so much for your kind words! Im so glad you enjoyed my hub! I followed you back and look forward to reading your hubs :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 3 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Kathleen,

      This is an excellent piece of writing. Amazing in every aspect of writing.

      I loved every word--and the lay-out was superb.

      Voted up and all the choices because you deserve it. Bravo to you for where you are NOW.

      Oh, how this sounds like ME from 1979 to 1990, but my demons were mostly self-induced, but still, for me it was NOT fitting in with the group of people I worked with. All were drinkers and I was not.

      Every Monday morning there was a weekend story sharing and it was always "we had this huge party and Bo drink a case while Jim and Jenny drank three fifths," Yeah, yeah, yeah." I got tired of not being accepted, so from 1979 I pretty-much lived out of a bottle or can and suffered more than I was accepted--some of these "monster" partiers would tell me to cut down or even quit the booze. And it was these people who influenced me. Oh, I did later tell them, but only got a sandbag.

      Keep on telling your story. You are a great influence on people who are living against the odds.

      You have such a gift for writing. Just keep writing and good things are bound to happen to you.

      I cordially invite you to read one or two of my hubs, and be one of my followers.

      That would make my day.

      I am so honored to meet you.

      Sincerely,

      Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thanks for being obsessed with me... I didn't know I was that big of a deal WTF

    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 3 years ago from Darlington, England

      You are a troll.

      Like I said before use the proper channels not the comments box if you have a problem.

      And again get a life yourself

    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 3 years ago from Darlington, England

      Your welcome. No matter whether you have done it in the past or not from what I have found if it is true you owned up to it at some point. That is in the past and you are on a site that does not even let you republish your own stuff let alone other peoples.

      I hate Trolls more than the people who plagiarize and that is all WTF is. No doubt he'll start on me soon but we'll see. I hope my evil manic persona comes out when they do.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thank you Amy, I don't know who this "WTF" is but they seem to get a kick out of anonymously attacking people online, and has been spamming my account all day.

    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 3 years ago from Darlington, England

      It is you who is afraid hiding behind a fake name. If you have a problem go by the proper channels. Her work on here checks out so why don't you get a life.

      Amy 'Nish Laverz' Laverick.

      Yeh I'm not afraid to give my real and other online names out unlike you WTF

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      thank you for your kind words dean

    • cheaptrick profile image

      cheaptrick 3 years ago from the bridge of sighs

      To live is to suffer;The Buddha shared that truth with us.To suffer well is to gain wisdom...and you, young lady, are well on your way.Congrats on a visceral hub,we don't see enough of these here.

      Dean

    • brutishspoon profile image

      Amy 3 years ago from Darlington, England

      You are an inspiration to others going through what you have. I've had drug problems in the past but never have I been as low as you. It is stories like yours that make me realize I can get back to a normal life.

      Thanks for sharing

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image
      Author

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Thank you so much for your kind words. Writing in and of itself makes me feel vulnerable, but as an artist I feel the need to help others through my work, and I certainly consider writing a form of art. That is why I try to share my story so others know that no cave is too deep that you can't find your way out.

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 3 years ago from New York

      Thank you so much for sharing your extraordinary experience with us! You are such a strong woman and will be of great inspiration for so many young people who are going through this pain. Voted up and sharing!