It was May, 2006. Kim Sella sat in her Longview home sharing her story of anorexia and how it consumed her body, beginning when she was just 13 years old. I asked her, "At what point did your perception of your body image start to change?" She replied, "I really don't remember anymore but I feel like I'll never get it back."
At 6'1", this frail woman weighed just over 100 pounds. Pointing to her protruding hip bones she says, "I see fat between my hip bones, on the side and on my stomach too. I like my stomach to be concave."
For about 20 years, this deadly obsession had a firm grip on her life. Kim says, "That's how a lot of anorexics die. They go into organ failure." Just a few weeks later, that's exactly what happened to Kim.
Lying in a Dallas hospital bed with a feeding tube down her nose, Kim told us the end may be near. "At this point, my body is pretty messed up, and I don't know how far I can play with it."
But starving, had become "normal" for Kim. "Yes, it's hard, it really hurts. I mean you feel really stupid when you're like this and people think you're really stupid or stubborn or whatever. I have things I love and I have things that matter to me unfortunately sometimes I'm not one of them," says Kim fighting back tears.
On the brink of death, Kim woke up one morning and could barely breathe. What happened next, would be the turning point in her life.
"I remember I was like sobbing. I said I just don't want to die. I said I know everybody dies but I don't want to die like this." Kim goes on to say, "Everything I had achieved up to that point would be gone and then I remember thinking, for what? I mean what a stupid reason to die. You know my grave stone reads, 'Here lies Kim, she was really thin.' I don't know, some thing just happened."
Today, exactly two years later and now 36 years old, Kim is finally gaining back control of a disease that almost killed her. "Giving up an eating disorder is like giving up your identity, everything you thought you were. It's like throwing it away without knowing if you're going to like the new person. So, it's like a leap of faith."
A leap of faith, Kim takes one day at a time. "With the weight gain comes all the fears and insecurities and pain that you were trying to run from and not deal with and then you have to deal with it and it's just sitting there," says Kim.
Kim admits looking in a mirror or stepping on a scale are still a struggle but she's making progress. "Something I figured out is its totally normal not to like part of your body. I also never realized until I started getting better that it takes so much energy to starve. It takes an incredible amount of will power to not let yourself have anything, to cut yourself off from everybody."
At her lowest point, Kim was only eating a couple pieces of toast a day. Slowly, she started eating again. "I've put on 30 pounds and that was hard but it was gradual. It's been two years."
Kim now has a job. Her relationship with her family is improving. Her hair, once falling out in clumps, is growing again. But some of the results of her anorexia are permanent.
"My teeth are pretty much a wreck and I think that affects your self confidence too. People look at you when you smile. I am completely missing some of my teeth on the bottom and the top. I put my front tooth in every morning with denture gel and hope it stays through the day."
A once beautiful smile, now tempered by crumbling teeth from a lack of calcium and the reality of no extra money to fix them.
Another permanent reminder can be seen over most of her body. "Now I'm just stuck with the scars and people do stare." Scars left by a razor blade. Cutting is a way some anorexics release the pain they feel inside. "That was a part of my life for a number of years and I'm stuck with the result and it's hard."
Although hard to accept some of her choices, Kim is learning to live with her past. "I don't regret the past 20 years because they've made me a lot less judgmental of other people. I would have liked to have seen the girl who went to TCU to get her degree and see where I would have gone from there but I don't think there's any point in looking back because I can't change anything I did."
She now looks ahead, knowing she must stay strong to continue rebuilding her life. "I don't think you ever completely get over it. I think it's always in the back of your mind. Also, I have no self confidence, none. I don't know if I'll ever get it back. Actually, I don't think I had much to begin with and it's been so many years starved that I'm not sure. I don't know, maybe. I think I still have more work to do on that."
And she's hoping her story will help save someone else's life. "I think there are a lot of girls that are struggling and guys that are struggling with the same disorder and thinking that they'll never get out of it and it's going to be their life and things are never going to be better, and they do. I want them to see that they can and understand that you can come from nothing, to being almost dead, to you know where I am right now."
And where Kim is right now is a far cry from where she was two years ago. "I don't think I'm just existing anymore. I think I defiantly appreciate life a lot more than I used to."
Kim tells us she'd now like to go back to college and finish her degree. She's also interested in speaking to area students, warning them of the dangers of anorexia. She also warns parents of young girls to be aware of changes in their child saying catching this deadly disease early is key to beating it.
If you are interested in contacting Kim, email firstname.lastname@example.org.