You saw that title and thought, what the heck does Willy’s World have to do with eating disorders?
Luke, the main character in Luke the Hybrid Reindeer & His Vivacious Elf, has battled anorexia on and off since he was a teenager.
When readers pick up this series they expect Willy and his craziness. Each story has a theme outside of Willy as well. I’ve covered love is love, adult bullying, addiction and redemption, domestic violence, and child abuse.
And now we get to Luke, whose story I (unfortunately) understand too well.
Forgive me for getting personal, but here goes…
I was fifteen when my eating disorder started. I was having problems with my knee and given a cortisone shot. My weight, that had always been in the mid-nineties or so, got up to 103. No biggie, right? I knew as soon as I got off the meds I’d go back down to my (already too thin) normal weight. I have ADHD and have always been rush, rush about everything, so that played a part as well. I also should stress that I’m barely an inch over five-feet tall.
My mother pushed me to step on the scale. Her exact words to me (as she laughed) were, “You’re getting fat.”
Mom and I never had the best relationship. My sisters and I were criticized at every turn. I, being the youngest of the three, was blamed for the destruction of her and my dad’s marriage simply because I’d been born a female instead of male. Apparently, I was the ‘last chance, save the marriage’ baby. My dad always wanted a boy and already had two girls, so…
To be blunt, until my mother died last year I wasn’t treated well, yet I was expected to wait on her hand and foot. It was especially hard after I lost my sisters and I was her only living child.
All that is a story I won’t go into, but suffice it to say that her, “You’re getting fat,” that was said in glee (seriously) was a huge turning point for me. I started seeing myself as overweight so I started cutting back on anything and everything with calories. What Luke consumed during his worst moments was exactly what I had day in and day out – lots of black coffee, a lot of water, and a 230 calorie candy bar.
At my worst I was 83 pounds, severely anemic, always dizzy, dry heaving constantly because I barely put anything into my body, and passing out daily. Like Luke, I had an amazing teacher who went above my mother’s head and pushed for me to get help. He risked his job to do so because he was a good man. When my mother finally took me to the doctor it was done simply to prevent Child Services from stepping in, not out of concern for my health.
I wasn’t allowed to speak. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what I was going through. All questions were asked of my mother, not me – you know, the patient. I was forced (unlike Luke) to have test after unnecessary test run on me for stomach issues. I did have an ulcer but that wasn’t what was causing my rapid weight loss. When a nurse in the doctor’s office pushed for why I wasn’t eating, Mom said the same thing Luke’s mother says, only with sister instead of brother, “She’s jealous of her older sister. She’s doing this for attention.”
I loved my older sister, but she was the favorite. Everybody knew this because my (divorced) parents were quick to tell everybody that.
Both of my sisters are gone now. My middle sister was treated as bad as I was. Well, worse in some ways.
It was that same older sister who showed up at our house out of the blue with her new husband who finally got me help. She’d not seen me in a few weeks and she caught me walking out after a shower in a thin tank top, shorts, and a towel on my head. You could literally see my ribs. She freaked, my brother-in-law freaked, Mom got yelled at for ‘watching me kill myself and doing nothing about it’ and I was in a doctor’s office – without my mother – the next day. I wasn’t allowed to go home before I was sent straight to the hospital for an inpatient stay.
The sister who I was ‘supposedly’ jealous of literally saved my life.
I was finally getting the help I needed, but that didn’t stop my mom. She threatened me if I dared speak with a social worker or anybody else in authority. If I did, I was to lie and say I ate fine and WAS doing it for attention because I WAS jealous of my sister. I may have resented being constantly told my sister was better than me, but that wasn’t what started my ED. I never said any of that but I wasn’t overly cooperative when questions were asked. I was terrified of my mother.
Since then I’ve battled on and off. I met my husband during a relapse three years later. He’s watched me pass out in restaurants and at concerts. He’s held me as I’ve lain on the floor of the bathroom praying I won’t faint. After my sons came and got older, he taught them what to look for if he wasn’t around. That’s the worst of it for me as an adult. My kids were literally told what to watch for. That breaks my heart to this day and they’re all grown now.
I’m a lot better now, but the mindset never truly goes away. I still remember every comment made to me about my weight over the years, especially during my teen years. I’ve not spoken to a family friend since I was eighteen because she said, “Oh! You’ve put on quite a few pounds since I saw you last. You know, with your mother being overweight…” Rude on her part, yes, but something I should’ve gotten over already. For the record, I was 98 pounds when she said that.
The comments are never forgotten. The people saying them may long forget but the person they say them to won’t.
With that being said, if you know someone who’s suffering, LISTEN. Don’t judge. Don’t say you know how they feel unless you’ve experienced it yourself. Don’t tell them to get over it already. And for God’s sake, never, EVER say, “Just eat.” Oh, and this one was always fun (not) – “I know you’re supposedly sick and all, but shouldn’t you cut back before you gain too much?”
You’d be surprised how insensitive some people can be.
If you know somebody who’s suffering, reach out. They may say they’re doing fine but they’re not. When they look in a mirror they don’t see what you see when you look at them. They see an overweight person who could lose a few more pounds. At my worst, I would gain one and lose three. It was a pattern.
When you read about Luke just know that his story was written from someone who’s been there. A lot of details were switched around and/or fictionalized for his particular story, but not the severity of the issue.
If you’re suffering and need someone to talk to – someone who understands – please reach out to me. If not me, somebody else. I promise anything you say will be kept between us. Shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I had nobody when I was a scared fifteen-year-old girl. Looking back, I know having someone to talk to who simply understood would’ve done wonders in my recovery.
My mother went to her grave denying I ever had any type of problem. I spent every day until then being told constantly that I was fat, that my husband would leave me if I gained any weight, etc. Lord, I could go on, but I won’t.
I hope you all enjoy Luke the Hybrid Reindeer & His Vivacious Elf. You’ve all embraced my crazy North Pole and I’ll forever be grateful.
As for Willy, well, he’s more over the top this year than normal so be prepared. He takes his crudeness to a new level. Every time I tried to tone him down he just got worse.
Until next time,
P.S. I don’t suggest looking up memes about this topic. A majority of them infuriated me. Apparently, eating disorders are a big joke to some? Just… wow.