Interview - Danielle van Kay survived anorexia herself: '’I am living proof of full recovery'’
In this weekly column called ‘never again’ (from RTL Nieuws, a Dutch news website) people talk about something they never want to experience again, never want to do or never want to do again. This interview is translated by us, because it's originally placed on a Dutch news website. Read the article below:
This week: Danielle van Kalmthout (32) - better known as Danie van Kay – she struggled for years with an eating disorder. Her rescue came from a totally unexpected source. "I could never have predicted that I would develop an eating disorder. As a child I already loved food. When I saw a documentary about anorexia on TV, I wondered how someone could starve themselves so much. I didn’t understand it at all. Years later, unfortunately, I understood that all too well."
"Now I see that I have a lot of character traits that is seen by many people with an eating disorder. I was (and am) a perfectionist, afraid of failure and very goal-oriented. Precisely traits - or alarm bells - that can contribute to the development of an eating problem. I also became very insecure about my appearance during puberty. I was always the tallest girl in the class. I started my period at 10 and had breasts, at 13 I was fully grown and I was already a real woman. I compared myself with classmates who were thinner and more childlike.’’
‘’When a teacher told me that I had gained so much weight in such a short time, something inside me snapped. At the time, my father was on a diet and he lost 10 pounds in 6 weeks. That seemed like something to me, so I decided to follow the same diet. And where most can just stop dieting, I just freaked out. I couldn't stop, it was addictive."
"I remember that I read the weight of Sylvie Meis in a magazine. I also wanted to achieve her weight, it became my goal. I didn't think about the fact that she is 10 centimeters shorter than me. I saw my weight on the scales getting lower and lower. Somehow I knew this had to stop, but I didn't know how.’’
‘’Plus, when I lost weight, I initially got a lot of compliments. People said I looked good. Of course I was glad to hear that. Losing weight made me euphoric and made me feel superior. Where others did not maintain a diet, I succeeded. Actually quite unsympathetic, but an eating disorder doesn't make you a nicer person."
"Not eating gave me a sense of control. I knew: if I don’t eat this and exercise a lot, I certainly won't gain weight. I had to exercise every day and ate the same thing every day. It gave me peace when I had followed all the rules of my eating disorder. I did not dare to let go of those rules, because they gave me something to hold on to.’’
‘’My mother didn't realize it for a long time. She liked that I started eating healthy and encouraged me by baking chicken and vegetables for me that I took to school in fresh containers. When my friends went to get some snacks, I said I would come later and then I only drank tea or Sourcy Red. I tried to avoid dinner by saying that I had already eaten. I wanted to be in control of what was on my plate, so when I offered to cook from now on, my mother - who hates cooking - was happy at first."
Gradual weight loss
"It's not that I became skinny in a short period of time. The weight loss was gradual, so it was not so noticeable. Many eating disorders go unnoticed as long as the weight remains healthy, because people have no idea what goes on in your head. Slowly my weight became less and less, but I disguised it with thick, baggy clothes.’’
‘’Nobody noticed until my mother unexpectedly walked into the bathroom. I took a shower and was already naked. She was shocked to see how thin I had become. My BMI was found to be too low at the doctor's office and I was sent to a psychologist who immediately said that I had anorexia. Me, an eating disorder? I thought that was nonsense. The seriousness of the situation didn't dawn on me."
"After that I went into different clinics (in total 15 times) to work on my eating disorder. I was constantly put on weight and then I had to figure it out myself. In many clinics they work with food lists, and sometimes they refused me to snack because it was not on the eating list.’’
‘’By the time I was 21, things were going well for me: I was gaining weight, doing fun things and studying again. But then I got Lyme disease. In a year I deteriorated so much that I ended up in a wheelchair. It was a very difficult period for me then. I had attacks of severe eye pain, I could barely move my eyes. I had suicidal thoughts and wondered what my life was worth if every day literally hurt me."
"About 7 years ago I thought I had nothing to lose. Life was jerky anyway. I thought: I'll just sit down and eat, because that was all I could. And that helped. I recovered from my eating disorder at a rapid pace, making me physically stronger to receive treatments for Lyme as well.’’
‘’I am not completely cured of Lyme, but I am cured from my eating disorder. Pretty crazy to think that Lyme cured me of anorexia. As terrible as Lyme is – I still have eye pain and need a wheelchair for longer distances – it saved me."
"I NEVER want to struggle with an eating disorder again. I never want to go back to the isolating loneliness that comes with it. Social life is mostly about food and drinks. In other words, calories that you want to avoid as an anorexic patient. That's why cancelling your appointments feels good. But if you cancel plans a thousand times, you will eventually no longer be invited. I had zero friends left.’’
‘’I had to build up my social network again and I am very grateful that I succeeded. I can enjoy a nice evening with friends in the pub, because I appreciate it extra. Just like good food. Chips, ice cream, risotto, there's nothing I don't like or deny myself."
Faith in full recovery
"You often hear authorities say that an eating disorder is lifelong, but I think that is complete bullshit. Such statements are incredibly demotivating for anyone’s recovery, because why would you fight hard to get better if this is not possible? Those claims are dangerous claims, because no one wants to have to fight for the rest of their life.’’
‘’As a result, someone with an eating disorder can come up with wrong, possibly suicidal ideas. I have been coaching people with an eating disorder for 5 years and I would never say such a thing. I firmly believe in full recovery, because I am the living proof."