Anonymous asked: Why'd they rescind your acceptance? Just because you're anorexic? How can they even do that?
Hey, an anon! I never get questions!
But, well… it’s a little complicated, but -back then- I wouldn’t be too surprised if there wasn’t a fair amount of judgment since eating disorders were talked about a fraction as much as they are now. But..I can give you some background to have things make a bit more sense. Between sophomore and junior years (year 10 and 11 in other countries), my eating disorder went into overdrive. I’d been losing throughout all of 10th grade, but everyone assumed it was healthier eating combined with another non-ED health condition. It was questionable that I may have leukemia and was in extensive treatment for that, so even when I was at an unhealthy weight before the summer, no one was too alarmed. (As for the health condition then, I knew I wasn’t eating properly, so the easy bruising, etc. wasn’t why this was in question and my labs and blood cells were really, really abnormal. I did take some medications that would have been the chemo treatments for what it looked like I had but no one could confirm it 100% - I just took a mild, mild amount. By the end of that summer - despite eating less and less and getting lower and lower on the scale, my blood labs DID improve, cells returned to healthier structure, etc. …. so there’s reason to believe there was an external condition taking a strong toll on my body, but that it was improved by the treatment I underwent.) I let you know that because, the summer that my anorexia became so terrible is when I was working heavily with Columbia’s administration, attended seminars and groups and workshops for other students like me who were hoping for early-admittance and scholarships, etc. Because of this other health condition that they knew about (I even had some of their doctors look at me), my weight was never alarming to them and my exhaustion and whatnot during these workshops was overlooked because they knew what I was going through. They even had a closer awareness than my word because they’d seen my labs and blood themselves. So, while I was progressing in solidifying my place there, I was REgressing in my eating disorder and they didn’t know I had one.
Under the pressure of school and home life getting bad, when I returned to school after summer for my junior year, everyone treated me like an alien. The girl they USED to know was no more, and THIS girl wasn’t just ‘sick’ with a blood disorder. I even had more energy since what WAS wrong with me then was no longer a problem. So the contrast of invisible me tackling the volleyball court with blind vigor and energy was confusing to everyone. I was actually running on adrenaline and anxiety. I never ate and yet had a double workload at school, extra-curriculars that meant the WORLD to me, and was a part of so MANY things that no healthy person could have managed. But, I was convinced I was superhuman, and the anxiety kept me ‘energized’ when there was no food/weight to supply it. I was taking calculus and four AP classes as a junior - all in prep to go to Columbia in some amount the following year. Needless to say, I didn’t get too far into the year without having to go into treatment. I was collapsing left and right, breaking/chipping bones on the volleyball court, fainting in choir and unable to sustain notes without passing out… it was bad, and in ways I couldn’t hide anymore.
So, I went to treatment that October through the beginning of November (but rushed it so I could get back to school). When I returned to school, I was so behind. (I didn’t get my schoolwork sent to me in treatment until almost two weeks before I discharged, so I missed weeks and weeks, and already had twice as much work as everyone else.) I was so behind, only physically able to go for half-days (I was doing well, but was still passing out and weak a LOT). So, I couldn’t catch up with all I missed and I couldn’t keep up with what was happening day-to-day since much of it didn’t make sense without knowing the information I missed..! I was an A+++++ student and just….COULD NOT do it. My school was ridiculously small, so finding anyone who could tutor ME was impossible and I kept teaching THEM old things and left still not able to figure out the current/recent-past subject material.
I ended up not being able to take my midterm exams because I hadn’t caught up by then (they take place in late December), so my grades were reading as an incomplete. Struggling at something I had NEVER even had the slightest challenge with was making me incredibly depressed. The seminars and expectations at Columbia were also piling on behind the scenes, since it was only months before I’d be attending there. (They had enrollment opportunities for us that began that summer since we were a special group of kids that needed a different intro before fall semester began .. so, that was only six-seven months away and here I was beHIND, not feeling so solid in my daily schoolwork, that I definitely couldn’t muster EXTRA stamina to take on that workload). They were patient and my school was AMAZING with also being patient with me and not letting Columbia know about why I left earlier that fall for treatment.
The end of March, beginning of April - while preparing to go away on a choir/band trip to perform in Disney World (requiring I miss two more days of classes .. but my role in choir/band being too important to them for me to NOT go) .. it was fair to say that my school came to see that certain classes I just would NOT be able to finish by the end of the year. Instead of having me fight and break my back for grades I may never obtain higher than an incomplete, they suggested I drop some. (Also, by early March I’d finally cracked and started to restrict again - I think they noticed and, in trying to prevent a full relapse, wanted to take the stress off of me.) I had to drop calc and was looking at having to drop English. (Which was mortifying b/c my school alone requires four years of English to graduate; dropping it as a junior ensured I have to take it over the summer OR repeat a year of school just for MY school’s requirements. The idea of dropping classes or doing them over the summer was humiliating. I was supposed to be above and beyond - not below average and failing!! ….but I saw no way out since I was behind by almost five or six novels at this point in English.) I went on the trip; it was a NIGHTMARE for me eating disorder- + heat-wise. A nightmare. Traumatically so. When I got back, the first day in classes, they called me to the office saying I had mail from Columbia. This happened a lot for forms, schedules, brochures, etc.; so I wasn’t alarmed in the least.
I went to the office, took the envelope, left, and headed to the stairs as I opened it and read it. It said something to the effect of:
”We’re terribly sorry to inform you that, after hearing about your inpatient stay at The Renfrew Center for your anorexia nervosa, and the subsequent academic struggle to maintain optimum performance - we at Columbia [yadda yadda, titles/names] must rescind your acceptance, early admittance, all scholarship grants and funding, and [a list of all the program connections/ties I had, etc.]. You are more than welcome to reapply and try again for our programs when you return to your scholarly performance, but we regret to tell you that you must start again from the beginning in admissions with [the familiar names of people and offices I contacted at step one]. We hope to see you on our campuses again [blah blah blahhhhh, I never read the rest]. …”
I was in middle of the stairs as I read this, just sat down, stared and dissociated away and didn’t move or get up even when the bell rang, classes changed, and people flooded the stairwell in a crammed hurry. I didn’t bat an eyelash every time I was clobbered with a bookbag, sneaker, or armful of books.
My mother pulled me out of school days after -without knowing about this as my parents were hardly involved with the things I sought out with my education, and telling them this defeat would ensure abuse of many forms I was too upset to take- because I’d had multiple full-blown panic attacks days in a row, had stayed awake for over three days, and my weight was visibly dropping. We mentally planned on me just repeating year 11 and graduating a year later after getting my health back together. I didn’t care. …about anything. Lost everything I was working for and my anorexia became as bad as it’s ever been. …and by the end of June I was in the ER and ICU during my cardiac arrest and resuscitation.
The ER/ICU experience solidified a different kind of confirmation that fighting to be a pediatrician even AFTER treatment and “wellness” was achieved was an impossibility for me. Thinking about being in the medical field now made me nauseous like never before and the suggestion that any of the trauma experienced in my personal collapse could ever affect my decision-making skills in the distant future for any patient I was with….? That made me so sick I knew I couldn’t EVER live with myself let alone find it in good-conscience to take the risk. So, not only was “starting over” with Columbia just not something I had the emotional stamina to do, but attempting with anyone anywhere, or for my goal profession, now made me so sick to think of it, all the doors on that just closed right there.
I’ll never know how MUCH of Columbia’s decision was based on my academic struggle or how much was because of judgments and stigmas over that fact I was anorexic. …or maybe b/cthey were mad they didn’t see it themselves when they had me… or maybe they believed I’d never be successful with these troubles and didn’t want to support someone they believed wouldn’t ever make it anyway… or what made them decide this really… But, either way, after being in the hospital when I collapsed -because OF my ed- is what officially robbed the desire and physical/mental ability to ever work in medicine .. especially not in pediatrics. …but that’s a little harder to explain and would take as much jabbering as I’ve done here.
I’m sorry I talked so long. I’ve just needed a place for this to go and have never been asked anything here by an anon…that I just wanted to finally get a lot of my thoughts out there.