The day my eating disorder could no longer hide

The day my eating disorder could no longer hide

The day my eating disorder could no longer hide

Lying on the scanning table, my mind wanders, mentally running through tasks to complete before heading home. After comfortably (obliviously) shielding myself with denial, my default for 21 years, lying on this table is a mundane task. Blood tests, ultrasounds, MRIs, X-rays, and computed tomography (CT) scans are routine procedures that hold no fear, just standard testing when doctors suspect I’m pushing my body too far.

After injecting anaesthetic, the radiographer straps down my shoulder, positioning me unnaturally, to keep me still. Using the CT scan, the pictures will be combined into three-dimensional images, showing bones, blood vessels, soft tissue, joints, abnormal areas, (and any surprise tumours, after all, that’s partially why I’m here) and the exact site to inject the steroids into the subdeltoid bursa and glenohumeral joints.

When the technician and radiographer are ready, they ask once more if I am pregnant (I am not sure whether to laugh or feel flattered that they ask) before they retreat, seeking safety from the rays of the pulsating machine, behind the glass wall.

The table slides back and forward as the scanner moves around, to ensure the dot points find their mark. As the ring inside the gantry moves in a circle, each revolution takes less than a second, clicking and buzzing while taking images. Periodically, via the speaker, I am reminded not to move, or take a breath, so that images will be clean, and crisp.

Without moving my head, my eyes travel to the right. I see my fingers stretched in the reflection of the rotating image, extended and, with each round, seemingly growing in length.

In time with the rhythmic, almost hypnotic motion, I feel I am being lured away yet, at the same time, I feel my body lying flat on the table. I have a high pain threshold; very little affects me. I am not sure what I am feeling; it is neither pain, nor discomfort.

Ghoulish fingers reach out, taking their place across my lap. The lights and sound are relentless as the machine continues to scan my joints and bones. All I hear is an eerie laugh and my eating disorder’s firm voice reinforcing.

“Take that Bitch,” loud and clear.

My fingers no longer look natural, or like they belong to me. They appear as tendrils growing longer, waiting to grab me by the throat.

Today I came to get a scan. Simple.

Although routinely going through the motion of the scan and the steroid injections, I seem to be meeting, in the machine, something unexpected. Today I hear more than my usual inner critic eating disorder voice.

As the steroid finds my joints, the eating disorder voice shows no mercy. My body fights the throbbing in my right shoulder, the unknown agony in my left elbow and a slipped disk aching in my lower back after trial yoga class.

    “Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide.”

I am used to the mean eating disorder voice; I live with it 24 hours a day. Something different is happening. The ED voice has switched sides and bare bones have turned against me.

With morbid fascination I see each and every bone, even the smallest bones are clearly visible, as well as the surrounding tissue, loosely woven together, like dissected honeycomb.

I try to look away and yet I am transfixed, these fingers are mine. They look like mine, yet longer, growing longer, waiting silently, unequivocally ready to grab me by the throat the moment I am not prepared to defend myself. They are me; I am them.

“Take that Bitch. Bones, that’s all that’s left.”

Every therapist insists I have a small, wounded child, buried deep inside, wanting love and protection. If this is true, I want to keep her well. I see these bones, but I don’t see her. My shoulder, my arm, my fingers. Don’t let them break. The knowledge they have turned on me means I have to find a way to protect myself and look away.

The fallout of the past 21 years of my internal eating disorder fight, together with my recent diagnosis of osteoporosis, is on full display.

Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide; bare bones, bare bones, don’t try

Inexplicably, I can see the big picture, there is no hiding, it is crystal clear. I can hear, see, feel the fight inside of me, I am no longer able to deny or deflect. I see past the layers, the denial, the excuses, and the crap.

“Take that Bitch.”

I hear my ED voice without its filter for the first time.

My ED voice has always been mean. It’s sarcastic and nasty, a critic, but today, today is different. The grim reaper has surfaced, becoming an ally with my ED. Together forming a voice within, they have turned on me.

They were waiting for me in that scanning machine. My ED removed itself from my skin and circled in the air, looking for a new partner having sensed I may be trying to slip away.

“Take that Bitch.”

“There is no way out from here. Bedfellows for too long. There is nothing between bare bones and skin and your bullshit make-believe attempts of recovery are wasting everybody’s time.”

It seems I have been offered the sugar-coated version until now. Like a drug dealer, the ED befriended me. It cost me nothing at the start. I learnt to trust it, and it was always with me, by my side. It made promises and never lied.

Not once did I believe ED would be bad for me. Not once did I imagine it isolating me.

Perhaps the truth has always been this clear and I was not willing, or was unable, to listen or hear. I was desperately craving trustworthy and nonjudgmental support, but ED duped me. Many years of not listening, not hearing, and minimizing, has caused timeless damage.

The moment I leave a therapy room, I have become so comfortable listening to the voice within that my mind betrays me without a second thought. Instead of sitting alone in the pain, the moment I am alone, it never occurs to me to fight back.

The ED voice reassures me it is supporting me throughout the painful and often avoidable admissions for surgeries such as abdominoplasty, liposuction, stapedectomies, a spinal fusion, a gastric band that almost killed me or infusions or monitoring for iron, bisphosphonates, electrolyte imbalances, osteoporosis, and always, severe, and enduring anorexia/ bulimia.

Each time I face another round of refeeding, as I battle to eat, I am neither listening nor hearing that this is real.

For years I have dismissed and denied blood tests showing consistent malnourishment, low iron, ferritin, and vitamin D.

Now, my eyes are open

Today I can see I have been used but am unsure how to walk away. Like a parasite, ED is evil and destructive. I have not been able to see it as I’ve been in it for too long.

“Take that Bitch,” loud and clear. 

The neon red light continues to circle in swift motions, the arrow X Ray beam scanning slices of my insides to form a whole picture that will show the experts where to narrow their search.

As I lie still, trying not to move, I wonder about my hours of endless therapy. Actively seeking new ways to think, at this moment, seems a waste of time. My fear of failure has further deepened. If the eating disorder has integrated itself so deeply, if it is infused through my bones, is it possible to walk away? Without my bones, even bare, I cease to exist.

On an autopsy table, if I lay beside another, will our bones be the same or is this what I have allowed my eating disorder to do to me by turning the other way?

As the light continues to lap around my bones, my mind hits a wall. I lament the loss of cognitive function and question if it is due to malnutrition, overwhelm or burn out from years of outrunning fear of trauma and pain. I am no longer sure it matters.

Clicking and buzzing, the motion of the machine continues, and the technician’s voice asks me to hold my breath again. I have no idea how long I have been in here; I do not need to be reminded not to move, nor take a breath.

Words are taunting me, looping through my mind in a monotonous rhythm, chasing the flashing red dots as they capture the images the human eye cannot see.

Trauma. Stop eating.

Gastric band. Start puking.


Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide. 

Tummy tuck; liposuction.


Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide. 

Magnesium, potassium, phosphate.

Electrolytes out of whack

Hospitalised, supplements, refeeding.

Signs of heart attack

Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide.

“Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide.” 

For the first time, I have a front row seat, and can see the bravado bullshit, denial, and total immersion I lost myself in. I had willingly succumbed to ED,  hoping to soothe and ease the immense grief, loss, and abandonment I did not know how to hold.

When I take away the bravado, the attempts to eat, the infusions, the therapy, and the self-help, I am left looking at my future, scared it may be too late. I can follow the rules, eat my meals, and have a lifetime of bisphosphonate infusions, but sometimes a wrong cannot be put right.

I have done this to myself. I can see my bones, ultimately this may be who I am. The words are ringing true. I can see how easily these bones can break. They are me; they are mine, yet they are awful, they are turning on me.

“Take that Bitch.”

Sometimes, there is nothing to be done. I saw those bones.

“Ultimately, you are collateral damage. Those bones are fucked”.

I am smart enough to know if I don’t make changes now, my bones will further deteriorate (as will my age), and the next scan will show my bones looking like chalk.

I know how this goes. Fracture, complications, death.

The ever-niggling question will not stop. Who am I if I walk away from my eating disorder? I have proof. It goes deep, it is all of me, it is woven through my bones.

The sarcastic warrior in me replies, “Try to get calcium and protein into the bones, to ensure they stop deteriorating so you can actually manage to walk away,” and the voice in the machine.

“Those bones are fucked.”

I am not the person who gives up despite what the world throws at me.

I can prevent further decline

I can choose to take supplements, increase protein and calcium and body fat to protect the skeleton that I can see. These steps will protect the bones that are disintegrating if I walk into anything or fall over.

I can take supplements. I can tell others I am struggling. I can continue to be a pain in the ass.

The gantry continues to move in a circle, each revolution clicking and buzzing confirming images. Round and round the light rolls, there is no beginning and no end.

I lie still and, again, I am asked to hold my breath.

All I see is bare bones. They find a lump.

“Take that Bitch.” 

I came for a simple procedure, but I cannot escape the reality of organisms, living and dying within my body, under my skin.

Typically, I manage to compartmentalize chaos in my life, both emotional and physical, this is how I cope. To do this is maladaptive yet has kept me from buckling under the weight of hard knocks up until now.

Suddenly everything is intertwined. I am exhausted. Bone-tired is an apt saying.

The doctor believes the lump is an upper back soft tissue subcutaneous tumour.

Next week I will have surgery to remove the suspected tumour on my back. While my mind instantly throws images of treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, I want to laugh out loud. At a time when I am finally allowing myself time and space for self-care and self-compassion, it is jarring to know my body is taking an opposing stance.

In layman’s terms, the best-case scenario this lump will be a lipoma under the skin that has occurred due to an overgrowth of fat cells.

If so, how reassuring (NOT), to know the fat cells are trying to leave my body, voluntarily, by physically taking a life form of their own and forcing their way out of my body.

If the lump is more sinister, I find it fascinating this tumour has chosen to locate itself within my already brittle, weakened thoracic spinal cord.

Either way, all my mind can hear right now is the fat cells have clumped together and formed a tumour full of fat, and must be surgically removed, as the fat is pushing its way out of my body. That is A LOT of fat.

          “Take that bitch.” 

Survivor’s guilt convinced me if I was meant to die, I would have been in the car, with my husband, when he died. Holding onto this belief has allowed me to play Russian roulette with my life and the choices I have made since I was 23 years old.  I’m 50 now.

Anorexia has affected my entire body and my mind. This scan is evidence of that. It is fact that people with anorexia nervosa often have pain throughout the body, including bone and joint pain and muscle and backache.

I have always wondered what my rock bottom would be. My self-deprecating, light-hearted, sarcastic joke, “I am a cockroach, nothing will kill me,” may not be true.

I wonder what else grows within.

The receptionist tells me the report will be sent to the doctor and as I leave, I wonder how revealing the results will be, compared with what I saw today.

Bare bones, bare bones, can’t hide. 


As a mother of four children and a maladaptive coping mechanism of a severe and enduring eating disorder, life continues to throw challenges my way.

With my family grown,  I am taking time to reflect on my values and learning to live true to myself.

For more than three decades, an eating disorder gave me a place to hide from the trauma of my past. Only now, I am discovering the trauma of my past does not have to continue to injure me each day.

To reach out to others, sharing my writing, my skills, hard-won experience and trauma recovery, allows me to create change in myself as well as support others. On the days I am paralysed between denial and perfection, I just need to take the right next step.

I am no longer addicted to thinking at the expense of feeling. I have discovered my own form of mindfulness, that of painting pebbles. Coming from a transactional world, I needed to know that pebble painting would have value for others and soon realized that painting pebbles was healing for me, too. In helping others, I am helping myself.

The pebbles have shown I am not alone. I can help others. Others can help me.

Pebble-painting allows me to give voice to the battles and fears that lie within. Today I am connecting with others and my authentic self. For details, go to



Instagram: pebbles4urthoughts


2 Responses

  1. Karyn Braveheart says:

    You said it
    You said it
    You said it
    The truth
    The bare facts
    If it takes a lifetime to find it
    If what is left brings peace
    And a daily
    Nothing but safe
    It is so
    Worth it
    If once a victim
    Or even a survivor
    Keep going
    Now knowing the
    Utmost truth
    Was exactly
    The utmost
    From my heart to yours
    Not the same
    But feels the same
    From my body to yours
    Not the same
    Yet hurts the same
    From my mind’s wisdom
    The same
    We claim the same
    We deserve the same
    And my wish for you
    And your wish for me
    We uncover the truth
    We recover the youth
    And thrive
    In true aliveness
    Not needing to be the same
    But gratefully
    The same.

    The only way l can explain how l feel and validate your writing knowing everything you say is the absolute truth.. l was unblinded when l broke..
    And finally knew what really matters for me for the rest of my life.
    Thank you Karen, from Karyn

    • Karen says:

      Karyn, your reply is eloquent, heart breaking and touching.
      Everything said so beautifully with so few words.

      Writing “Bare Bones”, and your response, gave me great clarity and I am honoured when I invoke a response from others.
      My hope is always connection.

      Your reply has challenged my skill when writing, “is less more?”

      Sharing this piece of writing took true courage. Standing up, speaking out, proud of who I am, true to myself at all times.
      My hope is others find the courage to write as well.

      Thank you for the gift of your reply, your truth, your wisdom, and your thanks.

Leave a Reply