What It Feels Like To Be Non-Stop

By Natalie Hill // As told to Alexandra Rapp

A piece of toast has 70 calories. A kiwi has 40 calories. A cutie has 30 calories. A banana has 110 calories. An apple has 60 calories. These facts are seared in my brain, a grim reminder of my time. I have the amount of calories in so many foods memorized.

In seventh grade health class, they taught us about the obesity epidemic and how to eat healthier. I took the concept of food being the enemy and figured that I could be healthier if I ate less. During the summer before eighth grade, I ate less and less and less, not realizing what I was doing. I would exercise more, eat less, and think that was a good thing. I’d skip meals and think I was lucky I didn’t have to eat. The thing that I thought I was doing to improve my health was actually making me unhealthy all along.

I didn’t realize it was anorexia for a long time. I didn’t notice what was going on. It was my mom who actually figured it out. It took an even longer time for me to accept it; I laughed at her when she first told me. We started to get into fights; she wanted me to eat more but I didn’t want to eat because I thought it was unhealthy. It was a battle between the two of us. She would try to force food on me and I’d try to not eat or I’d try to eat as little as possible.

Eventually, she sent me to a therapist. I went to her for treatment for a while, but it didn’t help. I’d just lie to both my mom and the therapist about how much I was eating, and if they asked, I would lie about what I was eating. If I only had egg whites for breakfast, I would tell them I had two full eggs. Maybe I would add in a piece of toast, even if I hadn’t eaten one. After a while of this, I was sent to a hospital for five weeks. I was taken out of school and had to drive an hour each way to get there.

Being taken out of school killed me, it was so hard. I didn’t get to see my friends or anybody. Ever. I didn’t realize how much I missed them. I’d be at the hospital with all of these strangers, bored and miserable. But even though I was unhappy, this was probably what helped me the most: I had such a big incentive to get healthier. I wanted to get back to school, back to my life, back to my friends.

Despite the fact that I was in a hospital being treated for my mental health, my grades were far, far more important to me. I prioritized my grades over my health: mental and physical. If I had considered recovering to be more important than getting an A on the project I had to turn in, I would’ve improved faster. But my grades were the most important thing to me at this time, and I wasn’t that concerned about my health.

It was nearly impossible to balance my treatment and my schoolwork. There were so many things that I was gone for during the five weeks. We learned completely new stuff, and I was handed homework that I didn’t even know how to start. I couldn’t figure out anything. It took a lot of Googling, struggling, and persevering. I would email the teachers and if I didn’t get the answer I needed, I would email again and ask more questions until I found what I needed.

One of the hardest times in my life was knowing that I was falling behind even thought I was giving it my best.

In the face of all of my hardships, I maintained perfect grades, despite being treated for mental health in a hospital program. I worked long and hard each and every day, focusing only on my grades so that they wouldn’t drop.

I set an extremely high standard for myself. If I don’t meet these expectations, I get angry. My judgement of myself is based on my grades. If I have all A’s, I’m doing well in life, going the way I need to go. That judgement is probably not healthy; I’ve thought about it before and I figure that it’s not a great thing. However, besides running cross country and playing soccer, school is almost the only thing I do.

If I do well in school, I feel successful about my life in general. If I do bad in school, I fail at life. I expect if I do my best, I can get good grades. Not doing well is not an option. If I don’t get good grades, I don’t get money for college. No money for college means I have a ton of student debt and I don’t get to do fun things when I’m older. All that I’m working towards right now is more school later on. If I do well in school, I can have more options in college. If I do well in college, I’ll have more options for jobs and I can pick a job I like and be happy.

I’m working towards eventual happiness, and I’ll work non-stop to get there.