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Killing Anorexia with Kindness: Shelby Wright's Story, Part 1

Shelby Wright

This story was written exclusively for by Roxanne Scolari-Wright.

My daughter Shelby struggled with eating disorders for seven years. She lost the battle on Oct. 28, 2011.

Shelby was a gifted, dedicated athlete who was nominated as the “Best Catcher in CA” by the all-star coaches. She then took her team to the nationals in Texas.

Soon after, Shelby’s distorted eating began. In the beginning, it was thousands of stolen OTC diet pills; cutting soon followed, along with drinking. For three months, all she ate was carrots – except when she binged and purged. When her disorder started to take hold, she was down 38 pounds.

At 100 pounds, she went into Stanford – the first time of many, many times. She spent 10 weeks there with me by her side. When they released her, I knew she wasn’t ready, but they couldn’t keep her any longer. She was back in one month later and spent another eight weeks there.

All together, she was hospitalized 15 times and was in two residential treatment centers. She was never close to recovery. The last facility she walked out of because she was 18. I was so desperate. I tried to get her made a ward of the state, and I also begged the doctors to do shock treatments on her to reset her brain. (Although there has been success in Europe, because it isn’t FDA approved in the states, they wouldn’t try it.)

For the final year, Shelby would only eat frozen peas and carrots. Her ED was so strong that she wrapped the sealed bags in four towels before putting them into the microwave. Nothing could touch them. She wouldn’t take any medications because there was no nutrition label.

If you see any of these signs, get help: excess exercise, journal keeping, food logs, food obsession, weight obsession, unbelievable mood swings, laxative use, empty wrappers, going to the bathroom and – more than anything – spitting into a bottle and excessive gum chewing. She spit out every ounce she could and her only food was gum.

During the final months, Shelby knew she was dying. Her kidneys and liver were failing again. She took energy pills before she went to bed so that her heart wouldn't stop. In the final month she was turning yellow and her stomach was swollen from the gasses from her failing kidneys and liver.

The morning I found Shelby laying on her bedroom floor with an extension cord wrapped tightly around her neck was the last day of my life. She had attempted suicide many times and finally completed it.

Although I knew that her pain was so great that she didn’t want to feel it anymore, I never thought through all of my planning of her death that she would let the disorder win. Shelby had plans. She was supposed to start beauty school in three days. We were relocating to get her a new start after beauty school. She was getting promoted at her job, being trained for a supervisor position. She was excited to be alive.

She never did any of the things that they say people who are going to commit suicide do. The day she made her decision, she had a story in her mind that she was going to get fired from her beloved job, which was not true. Her disorder not only lied to her, but it took her sanity. She was in a manic, crazy state. I sat up with her talking for hours. She sat on her bed repeating the same things, pulling out her toenails. She left us at 69 pounds.

If I had a do-over, I would make the doctors, hospitals and therapists keep her even if I had to abandon her at the hospital. I thought I was doing the right thing when I brought her home, but looking back that gave the disorder a stronger hold each time she came home.

People ask me what started this nightmare: When Shelby was in 7th grade, a boy said to her: "I can’t go out with you. I went out with a fat girl once and my friends made fun of me." That broke her, and the disorder took her.

Click here to read Part 2.