“Stand up straight!”
“Put your heels together and your toes pointing out!”
“Pull your belly in!”
“Do not slouch!”
“Keep your head up!”
“When are you going to lose all this fat?” image
Were the constant comments being lashed out at Whitney by her mother, a very weight conscious woman, as a child growing up! And also by her other siblings in the home who were persistently drench with this idea by their mother that they needed to be skinny and scrawny as a twig before their existence mattered!
But what was her mother’s problem?
Did she had underline motives for being this way?
She was only three years old when it had begun, only because she had a rounded belly looking more like a basketball and legs that were short and stocky; with deep creases in the inner parts of her thigh. Telling the story of her being a very chubby baby two years aback. But know she was growing by the minute each day, and some of the evidence of her being a very fat-baby was still there on her body for all to see that she was a very plummy baby girl.
However, her mother and older sisters with their ideal of perfection or what they thought she as a child should look like in their eyes, would constantly be the topic of the day in their large household, causing much humiliation to a defenseless child.
A defenseless young child who was completely ignorant about what her parent and other siblings were saying to her about her posture. Simply, because she didn’t know any better; thinking that whatever they were saying to her was probably for her own good, although, it felt very annoying and quite embarrassing to her at times.
She had a very pretty face, but in their eyes, her body didn’t match with the face. Therefore, every time anyone in the household saw her slouching or positioned in a way that wasn’t satisfying to their likings, she was immediately yelled at; triggering her to hurryingly change her position.
“Hold your gut in!”
One sibling would rudely say to her.
“What’s wrong with your feet, you can’t stand up straight?”
Another would utter.
Oftentimes, came the shameful remarks from as long as she could remember which was around the tender age of three-years-old; up until she was fourteen-years-of-age going on fifteen-years old when she became tired of it and decided to do something about it.
And with those constant criticisms, judgement and body shaming by many persons, especially in her own family, Whitney world and mindset was formed. Constantly observing herself in the mirror to see if she was looking pretty enough for her sisters or how awful her posture would be if she stood this way or sat that way for the seeing eyes.
In a household of five other siblings along with both her parent, Whitney Washington decided she would shut them down, at least for a while.
Seated around the family dining table with all eyes on her, Whitney watched as everyone placed their portion of food on their plates. And when everyone was done serving themselves, she took less than half of what each person had taken. Only placing on her plate half-spoon of rice and then no more than three ounces of chicken breast along with a small amount of vegetables to go with it.
All eyes began rolling, thinking she was getting crazy!
Everyone was expecting for her to go for a second and third serving after adding such a small portion to her plate, especially, since such was her regular custom; but not this time around. Instead, she just sat there and slowly ate the minuscule portion of meal and when she was done doing so, she excused herself from the table and then went to her room.
For the next three months such was her meal at dinner time and before heading out to school in the mornings; a slice of toast and a sip of orange juice would suffice. And at the end of her third month of practically starving herself, much sign was showing that all her stubborn belly-fat had actually disappeared – shrunk!
Her face too was taking a different formation, causing her to look twice as beautiful as she was before, and those indentation of the baby creases on both the inner parts of her thigh, also had vanished.
Ultimately, causing her chubby brown legs to look lean, strong and very firm, as if, she was a basketball player or born to be a fashion model. And with this new awakening of beauty came the popularity causing everyone who were anyone, desperately wanting to be her friend at school and also in her home.
But something completely different… something quite strange was going on in Whitney’s head and those who saw her as very beautiful would soon learnt that what they were idolizing and believing to be high esteem; was a very trouble young girl. Because three months down the road, Whitney Washington appearance had changed once again into something that looked far from the kitchen, causing her to look much thinner than the usual, bringing about much concerns to some of her teachers and also her friends at her school.
While at home neither parent or siblings were asking questions because now she was getting thinner and looking more like a part of the family. Until, one of her teachers from the school called her house; informing her parent, Whitney had fainted at school during the lunch break and was rushed to the hospital for treatment.
Upon arriving at the hospital the prognosis was not good, because one of the attending physician diagnosed Whitney Washington with having anorexia nervosa.
“And what is that, doctor?”
Her mother asked.
“It’s an eating disorder, characterized by low weight, fear of gaining weight, having a very strong desire to be thin, resulting in food restriction!”
Doctor Martin explained.
“How should I treat this condition?”
Ms. Carolina Washington asked with bulging eyes.
“First, you start by giving her liquid foods that are very nutritious, therefore, allowing her to receive the nutrients that her body needs, and she also needs to rest. And as she starts regaining some weight on the body, she then can start doing some form of exercise to build her muscles and strengthen herself.”
Doctor Martin continued to explain.
“So you can put all her favorite fruits and vegetables in a blinder and make a smoothie for her each morning which will go straight to the blood stream even faster than the sold foods she will be eating, if she eats any at all!”
The doctor further went on to explain.
However, although given that information, Ms. Washington was told that her daughter would be staying in the hospital for a while, possible a month before returning home. And upon hearing that news, Whitney’s mother thanked the doctors and then ask, if there was any way that she could see her daughter now.
After given the permission to see her daughter, she slowly followed behind the doctor as he led her to her daughter’s hospital room and directed her to go inside and have a seat, which she did. But before leaving the mother and daughter to chat, Doctor Martin could tell Ms. Washington was a person very meticulous about her weight, or what she was eating after having five children.
Because once she had removed her coat from her body, he could tell that she too was awfully thin, but only a blood test could tell, if she too was malnourish or not, and needed some medical attention as well.
She was looking just too scraggy… much like a walking skeleton!
And from his experience of treating such conditions, he was pretty much aware that this disease can sometimes runs in the family, but he didn’t want to be intrusive and ask he about her health status. Especially, since she wasn’t behaving any way out of the ordinary. So he told her it was nice meeting her, she should have a happy visit because her daughter will come around, and that he hope to see her again. With those final words, Doctor Martin and Ms. Washington parted presences and went their separate ways.
It wasn’t long after the mother and the doctor had gone in separate directions that Ms. Washington started antagonizing her daughter who was lying on her hospital bed about her weight. Sternly telling her, she better not, put on an ounce of weight on her bones, after leaving the hospital and returning home. Because she didn’t want any fat pig inside of her house.
The woman’s heart was hard and cold as an ice-burg!
Hearing those very same words which she heard many times before in her own home, Whitney began screaming at her mother, asking her why the hell she was there!
“I’m here because the school called me and told me that you had fainted; and they have sent you off to the hospital! I’m your mother, who else do you expect them to call, your priest!”
Ms. Washington fired back.
“You forgot, I don’t have a bloody priest, because you said I was too fat to tag along with you to church, Sunday mornings!”
Whitney stated harshly with bulging eyes.
“If you weren’t eating down everything in the damn house, then maybe, you could fit in one of your dresses and come to church with me and your other brothers and sisters on Sundays… don’t you think!”
Ms. Washington responded derisive tone.
“And now I’m barely eating your damn food and look where it had gotten me! Please, get the hell out of my hospital room and don’t come back here, if you don’t have to!”
Whitney replied angrily as the tears began flowing from her eyes.
Not caring an inch about her daughter’s feeling, in this moment of her health crisis, Caroline Washington responded.
“Is there anything other than food that you would like for me to get you on my next visit here? If I don’t bring it, then your father will!”
“How about bringing me some damn clothing! Or, would you like to see me walking around these hospital grounds looking like I’m damn crazy in these hospital gowns as long as I’m here!”
Whitney scoff at her mother.
Grabbing her coat and angrily marching through the big brown door, Ms. Washington walked away from her daughter’s hospital room without saying good-bye or even uttering another word to her.
On her ride in the elevator to the first floor, removing herself from the premises of the hospital building was when she saw a poor mother toggling along on the elevator with four children. Children, whom to her weren’t quite attractive looking or who she considered to be very ugly. And so she turned to the mother and asked.
“Why didn’t you quit after having the very first one!”
The heavy set woman replied, not believing what she was hearing.
But instead of repeating herself, she responded.
With her nose pointed to the ceiling of the elevator, until it stopped on the first floor where both woman then stepped off the elevator, walked to the parking lot and then off to their separate ways.
And right throughout her ride home, Caroline kept on venting to herself about her daughter not regaining anymore excessive weight because she didn’t like seeing her looking that way… obese, chunky!
Meanwhile, Whitney in her hospital bed, wept severely, because of all the pressure she was facing and enduring at home to be skinny and lanky like all her other siblings.
Every single day, constantly tucking in her gut to look smaller than she actually was, doing excessive amount of exercises to remove all those stubborn body-fat latching itself to her abdomen, hips and thighs. Being plumb and meaty was who she really is, and being any thinner was only making her sick, and missing out on all that was important to her, like her schooling.
Removing herself from the bed to use the bathroom, Whitney saw herself in the mirror and immediately she began screaming on top of her lungs, causing the nurse to rush to her room to investigate what was the matter with her.
“Whitney, what is the matter with you honey… what is hurting you now?”
The nurse asked sympathetically.
“Look at me, I’m so fat!”
“Well look at me, what do you think of me?”
The nurse ask while standing beside her, staring in the mirror and comparing herself with her.
“I don’t know! I think… I think… I think you are beautiful!”
Whitney replied tearfully.
“Well thank you for believing that about me and I think you are going to be even more beautiful than I am, once you start feeling a little better and start putting a little meat on this beautiful body of yours! You watch and see!”
The nurse expressed comfortingly.
“What’s your name, nurse?”
“My name is Lena, you can call me, Nurse Lena!”
The caregiver responded.
“Thank you, Nurse Lena for being so caring and nice to me.”
Whitney stated sadly as she wipe away the tears from her eyes with the back of her hands and began rolling away the tissue papers from the holder in the restroom to clean up her face.
Hearing those words had brought some comfort to Whitney’s mind and soon, Nurse Lena was helping her back onto the bed, making sure that she was lying on the bed comfortably before leaving her to be by herself again.
Minutes later, she was back at Whitney’s bedside with one of those can of strawberry Ensure Drink, in her hands, flicking the top open and telling Whitney to drink it up because it was her doctor’s orders for her to have some form of supplemental drink every two to three hours each day. Eyes bulging with fear, Whitney barely held onto the container of drink, as though, it was poison being given to her.
With every two sips of the supplemental drink to nourish her body, Whitney wanted to look in the mirror to see if any weight had gone on to her body. Although the nurse explained to her time and time again that her weight gain wouldn’t appear or show itself on her body that instantaneously after having two or three sips.
Forty-five minutes later, all of the supplemental food was down her stomach and then she was given sedatives – sleeping pills to send her off to sleep; so she wouldn’t have to worry about her fear of weight gain just after having her meal.
Which had led her to sleep for most of the night, and wasn’t up until nature had called and she needed to use the rest room. And as soon as she was awake, another nurse was in her face with another can of the supplemental drink, bidding for her to drink it because it was her doctor’s command. Seeing a different caregiver suggesting that she followed doctor’s order, Whitney asked.
“Where is Nurse Lena?”
“She has gone for the day… her shift is over and now I’m here taking her place!”
The nurse explained.
“And when will she be back for work?”
“If all goes well with her at home or on her way here, she will return to work tomorrow morning to care for you!”
The nurse of the night shift responded.
But there something in the nurse working the nightshift response that had suddenly triggered some thought in Whitney’s mind when she stated to her that if all goes well with Lena at home or on her way there to the hospital; she will return to care for her in the morning.
And franticly she asked the nurse working the night shift.
“What do you mean by that?”
“What do I mean by that?”
The nurse echoed.
“Well what I mean by that is something drastic could happen at her house preventing her from coming to work or she could meet in a motor vehicle accident on her way to work, completely stopping her from making her way to work or cause her to be late for work!”
The nurse explained pleasantly.
“You don’t think that bad things happen to nurses too?”
The nurse went on to ask her inquisitive patient.
“No, I wasn’t aware of that!”
Whitney replied honestly.
Because her state of childish ignorance had led her to believe that such persons like nurses, doctors and teachers do not experience such catastrophes or tragedy of life, preventing them from showing up for work and doing their jobs.
And by the time Nurse Grant was done sharing the ups and downs of life and all its challenges, the supplemental drink was completely done, giving her a healthy belch and having her heading back to bed to sleep. Not awaking until the following morning when nurse Lena tap on the surface of her bedroom door, handing her vitamins and her can of supplemental chocolate drink. In that moment of seeing that nurse whom she consider to be her friend, Whitney somehow made up in her mind, she was going to do all she could to get herself well, regardless, of what her parent or other siblings were saying to her about her weight. Because she had just learnt a valuable lesson that life circumstances don’t discriminate.
She knew it was not going to be easy for her; but she was willing to give herself a try of being healthy and feeling well once again. And while sipping away at her vitamin-pack supplemental drink created for her to gain weight and be nourished, Whitney revealed to Lena some of the constant struggles she was experiencing within her own family circle; just because she was looking different from they were; heavyset, and on the plum side of the scale.
“They are always telling me that I eat too much! Always asking if I can’t cut back on my food or why can’t I lose the weight? And at the same time, they are eating the same amount of food that I’m eating and sometimes, even more, and if you look at them; they haven’t gain an inch! It’s not fair!”
Whitney expressed sadly.
And for the first time in months, she stood in front of the mirror and admitted that something terrible was wrong with her!
“Look at me, I’m pure skin and bone!”
“I’m like a walking skeleton!”
“My ribs are obviously showing, my ass is gone and my collarbone can be used as a sipping cup! Anyone can throw a jug of water in my collarbone and easily wash their hands in it!”
Whitney went on scrutinizing herself.
Her observation was very accurate and Lena was happy to see her coming out of denial, and start accepting the fact that something dreadful has been happening to her; almost leading her to deaths door.
And with much concern in her voice, Lena expressed to her that she would come out of this dilemma and that there were many medical professionals who were in the hospital willing to help her make the right choices concerning her diet. Especially, after returning home from the hospital. And in that moment, Nurse Lena hurried back to the nurse station where she located the hospital nutritionist phone number, brought it back to her patient’s room and then handed it to her.
“If you are serious about eating right and getting yourself back into a healthy place, she is the right person who can help you realize that goal of being strong and healthy again!”
Nurse Lena warmly suggested.
With that suggestion, Whitney thanked Nurse Lena, hugged her and made her way to the bathroom to have her morning shower. But, soon Whitney came to realize, she had no change of clothing because her mother had not brought back any clothing from home for her as yet. Therefore, she had to change back into one of the hospital gowns once again as her attire for the day, or, until some family member decided on bringing her something from her closet.
And while in the bathroom, she stood in front of the mirror and repeatedly told herself that she beautiful, she was going to get well and meat on her frail bones again.
Just after coming out of the shower and cladding herself in two hospital gowns, one in the back the other in the front, there came Ms. Washington marching through her daughter’s hospital room door with two large bags of clothing. Some which she had removed from her closet and others, she had gone to the store to buy for her. Soon after entering the room, she threw them on the tiny bed and rudely uttered.
“Now you can dress-up and look pretty!”
“Mother, I’m not here to dress-up and look pretty, I’m here to get well! Can’t you just remember that for a second; you damn body image freak!”
“Sweetheart, I’m not the body image freak, you are! And that’s the reason why you are here because you are dying to look like me and won’t stop freaking out other people with your thunder thighs and gigantic gut!”
Caroline Washington responded harshly.
“There is no way, I’m trying to look like you, mother!” You are the person who has drove me to look like this! To feel the way I do now about myself… constantly bickering about what I eat and how much I eat! Look around here, do you see anyone looking nothing like you… like a dried-up corps!”
Whitney stated harshly.
And in her moment of anger, Whitney call for Lena! And when she arrive at her room door, she asked to please call the hospital kitchen ask them to bring to her room an hamburger with double cheese on the top of it, two of the supplemental drinks the doctor had ordered for her to take every two hours, and any form of dessert they had in the kitchen she could eat now. Because, she was extremely hungry and felt like eating something fun for a change!
“I’ll check the kitchen now and see what they have for you there; okay!”
Nurse Lena responded before leaving the room.
With a very angry appearance on her face and blazing fire in her eyes, Whitney sat on her bed waiting for the nutritionist to bring the food she had asked for to her room. And when the food arrived to her room, she just sat in front of her mother and slowly bite into hamburger and scoop up spoons of desserts while her mother just stood there at the foot of the bed and shamefully watched.
She had made up in her mind that she was no longer going to allow her mother or anyone else, to decide what she would be putting in her body. And also swore that she would never be coming back to the hospital again, at least, not for this purpose.
Because she knew it was the ongoing pressure from those in her household compelling her to lose weight which had brought her to this place and that had dictated her path in this direction. Causing her to completely look like dry twigs that has fallen from the trees during the summer season instead of a voluptuous healthy human being. Because almost all the flesh from her bone had disappeared and now she was so boney, looking scary like she was heading to the grave instead of living.
And as Whitney ate up the whopper on her plate, her mother looked on at her with much disgust on her face and much hatred in her eyes; desperately trying to find the words that would encourage her daughter to stop from taking another bite into the juicy red meat covered with extra cheese and onions placed in front of her.
“Whitney, you don’t need to take another bite in that dead animal on your plate! What is wrong with you? You want to get as big as the cow that you are eating, again?”
Her mother finally spoke.
But instead of getting agile or irritated by her mother’s offensive words, Whitney laughingly replied.
“Yes, mother, I do want to get as fat as a cow, probably the people in India will mistake me for one, and then worship me!”
Shaking her head in great disbelief, Ms. Washington angrily lashed out; “You are going to get sick and food is going to kill you!” while she walked over to where Whitney sat eating and began to remove the tray from in front of her. Meanwhile, Whitney kept on slapping her on the hands, telling her to leave her food alone.
Suddenly, there was a tapping on her room door interrupting their squabbles. Turning around and seeing that it was one of the doctors who was standing there, Ms. Washington spoke, trying to convince the doctor that what her daughter was eating was wrong for her.
“Doctor, I’m glad you are here! Look at what my daughter is eating; she is going to kill herself with all this junk!”
“What junk are you taking about, Ms. Washington?”
“I work here with a qualified nutritionist and I don’t know of her serving our patients any form of junk foods!”
Doctor Martin commented firmly.
“And if I can recall clearly, wasn’t the lack of food or the devouring of it that had brought your daughter here at the hospital?”
Doctor Martin stated quizzically.
“Ms. Washington, in my opinion, you should be very glad that your daughter is making an effort to eat something healthy, so she can return home and go back to doing things that are important to her and normal for any teenager to be doing. Like, going to school and focusing on her education. And not be stuck here in this hospital to be monitored by nurses and doctors twenty-four-seven!”
“Is that what you want for your daughter?”
The very tall, dark and handsome doctor asked compellingly, while having both his hands stuck inside the pockets of his lad-coat, and staring down on his patient.
“I want her to be well, but I don’t want her to be fat!”
Ms. Washington responded angrily.
“What fat are you talking about… look at her, she is pure skin and bone! And she needs to gain at least thirty pounds before we can even consider letting her out of here!”
The doctor spoke harshly.
“Don’t you want her back in school, amongst her friends, doing the things she loves and enjoy doing with other people of her own age group?”
Doctor Martin when on to questioned.
“Are you aware that she is still a minor and can be removed from your household for mental abuse and neglect of a minor? Is that what you really want?”
The doctor lashed out furiously.
“I asked that you stop badgering her about what she eats, especially at this point in her life when she is actually looking like a corpse! What she needs now is your love, support and encouragement; and not your constant bickering and judgement of what she should and shouldn’t eat! You are the parent, your responsibility is to provide the food she needs to consume that will allow her to stay nourish and strive!”
Doctor Martin went on lecturing.
Filled with conviction and guilt, Ms. Washington stood there with hands folded across her tiny waistline and spoke not another word while Whitney, for once in her life, felt as if someone was on her side. Especially, when Doctor Martin came closer to where she had been sitting and told her to eat as much as she could, because the sooner she started packing on some weight on her body, will be the sooner they discharge her from the hospital. And at the same time encouraging her to finish all that was on her plate because he would really like to see her well and back to living her life.
Soon after encouraging her to eat all that was on her plate, Doctor Martin spoke the most heartening and inspiring words to Whitney Washington and somehow she knew at that moment that she would take those inciting words with her for the rest of her life.
“You are beautiful whether you put on a little weight or not! But what you really need to be; is healthy! You need to look healthy and also feel healthy; and right now you’re neither looking nor feeling anything like that! That’s a big problem… that’s what caused you to collapse on the ground of your school compound! So always, please keep in mind that your main objective here, and after leaving here, is for you to be healthy! Okay!”
And hearing those words of her being healthy, being riveted in her head numerous times, Whitney knew from now on that that would be her gold; for her to be healthy! Regardless of what her parent or other siblings try to bombard her with about her being chubby or resembling a Chines Buda, she knew her focus would be for her to get healthy and for her to remain that way aa long as she could!
In that very moment, Doctor Martin told her that he would be back to see her later on in the evening or early in the morning. And then he told Whitney and her mother good-bye and swiftly left the room. And as Doctor Martin walked past Caroline Washington, she only express to him a cynical look, barely uttering a word of good-bye to the fine looking doctor, as he made his way through the door of her daughter’s hospital room.
Just after he was out of sight and possible out of her hearing, Ms. Washington turned to her daughter and said.
“Keep on eating that junk and see where it will put you!”
But Whitney wasn’t daunted by her statement, and forcefully fired back at her mother.
“Haven’t you just heard what the doctor said? I need to eat! So that’s what I’m doing, I’m eating, so please, let me eat, and eat in peace!”
But, Caroline wouldn’t stop picking at her daughter and so she went one saying to her.
“Pretty soon, you will be so fat that you are unable to fit into your clothing; so what are you going to do then? Don’t think for a second that I or your father is going to spending money to buy new clothing just because you can’t control taste buds or your gut!”
Ms. Washington divulged frustratingly while staring down at her daughter in a detestable manner as she ate that which was placed in front of her.
Just after finish eating the hamburger packed with cheese and onions, and swallowing some juice, Whitney got up from where she had been sitting with the merengue pie in her hand, walked over to where her mother was standing by the foot of the bed and suddenly, she angrily slapped her mother in the face with it.
Causing an uproar in her hospital room which had the nurses and doctors running to the room to investigate what all the commotion was about, and ultimately having the medical staff playing referee between mother and daughter.
But it was only after Doctor Martin raised his voice and had spoken; that the squabble between both mother and daughter would come a screeching halt.
“Get her out of here!”
“She can’t be bringing her household drama here at the hospital, ridiculing her own daughter and disturbing all the other patients!”
“What kind of a person does that?”
Doctor Martin lashed out.
And pretty soon after that brawl, the security officers were hauling Caroline Washington towards the elevator, eventually through the entrance way of the hospital and then to the parking lot. Where she went ranting and raving about them not sending home to her; a big fat useless cow to her house.