Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anorexia And Teeth

It all started years ago when I was a new teenager.  My Dad has Lupus.  Its an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body.  There are two kinds, systemic and well, I forgot what the other one is, you'll just have look it up.   Anyway, my Dad was sick a lot.  You might even say a lot a lot!  There was one time I came home from school to find his home health nurse calling 911 because he was crashing right there in the living room.  Needless to say, this created a lot of stress on me as well as on my Mom.  Dad got some kind of infection that overnight went from the size of a grape to the size of a cantaloupe.  It was on his side and never would heal.  They took him for surgery and sliced it open.  Then he would see the doctor once a week to get it checked.  For some reason, he reacted badly to any pain killers so he was fully lucid when they would stick their hands in his side.  This wound was so deep that you could see his organs.

I was a quiet kid anyway, but all the stress of this stuff really drove me to silence.  My Mom would pack it once a day.  Packing was AWFUL.  They stuffed it with gauze soaked in a mild bleach solution.   He would absolutely scream.  My nerves were shot, her nerves were shot.  It was living in Hell.  I never knew if I would come home to him crashing or to his screams of agony.   As an aside to this story, I should add this part.  One reason I react so strongly to people just throwing around the word Munchhausen is because my Dad infected himself with his own feces to keep the infection going.  There was a hidden camera in his hospital room after the doctors got suspicious that it would never heal.  We are talking an infection lasting years.  So yeah, he has Munchhausen.  The real deal.

What the heck does this have to do with anorexia?  Well, that is how it all began.  I was so stressed that I stopped eating.  First I was too nauseous, then I just stopped feeling hungry.  It wasn't overnight and I didn't think I was too fat.  It was just easier to not eat.  I felt very isolated anyway.  I had no idea then that I had Asperger's syndrome.  But there were clues.  It has nothing to do with the story but here's an example.  I wrote a report that I did very well on and wanted Mom to read it and see my grade.  It was in a folder and she started to take it out.  I guess I freaked out.  It HAD to stay in the folder.  She said I was really upset.

I don't remember most of my childhood.  I have true repressed memories and I assure you, it isn't as fun as it sounds.  Anything that might lead to one of my bad memories was erased.  That means any possible path that might not even be remotely related is also gone.  Yup, my memory is like Swiss cheese.  Although, unlike Dory, I can remember my name!  Anyway, back to the story.

There were many hospital visits where we almost lost Dad and many other things that happened along the way as well that contributed to my stress.  Since I am not writing a novel, I am not going to go into all of it!  Time took its toll on my body though.  At my lowest point, I weighed 86 lbs and am 6 foot tall.  My Mom keeps the picture in her wallet to remind herself to not ever let that happen again.  Let me tell you, when I diet, she freaks out.

Anyway, I didn't see that I was unhealthily thin.  It wasn't a matter of weight issues, it was literally forgetting to eat.  And it took a big toll on my body.  I hope somebody googles anorexia and finds out some of the long term affects that nobody talks about.  I deal with one of them every day.

I was born with pretty bad teeth.  I had regular dental checkups and ended up with lots of cavities filled.  I wasn't so good about that as an adult.  I have maybe one tooth that does not have a hole in it or is mostly gone.  At 37, that's not that great a record.  Part of it is not caring about my appearance and not brushing my teeth.  But that's not the big part.  The big part is my body leeching the calcium right out of my teeth..  That's right, one of the little known effects of anorexia is tooth loss and decay.  Brush them all you want, if the body needs a mineral and your teeth have it, it WILL take it.  No matter what you need, if your body is not taking it in as food and it is present somewhere else, it will remove it.

Do I have any other affects?  I am not sure, the doctors told me I was very lucky I didn't do more damage in the six years I was anorexic.  However, they also told me that it was very likely, even certain, that I would find other time bombs as I got older.  I will never stop being an anorexic.  Even as I change my lifestyle to eat healthier and exercise, I do not forget the lesson I already learned.  I am very very careful how far I go.  I still have thoughts that it would be easier to just not eat, I just don't let them rule.  But for now, I am in pain more often than I am not.

All of my teeth need to be removed and I need dentures.  I have the insurance, I just don't have the time.  Recovering from something that severe would definitely not be helpful during a move!  I average at least two tooth infections a year.  That is scary as well since those could be weakening my body.  I even had one when I was pregnant with TJ.  I often have them all the way down to my jaw.

Can you be born with bad teeth and have the same thing happen?  Sure, of course you can.  But if you know for sure that something is going to harm you in ways you never thought of, maybe, just maybe, you won't go down the path I did.   I'll think about scanning that pic Mom has and add it here.


  1. You know, my friend, I admire you for being honest and putting your life out there: good, bad, and ugly. It's not easy to do, and I realize that. I was humbled reading what you wrote, and I am glad that you are sensible with your eating and dieting.

    1. I was humbled reading about your past as well, girl. I just hope that some young girl reads this and realizes that maybe its not the best way to go. :)

  2. Man, Shellie.

    My biological mother has Munchhausen's. Living with her for the first 10 years of my life scarred me pretty deeply, including leaving me with an eating disorder that I still battle today. I just want to reach through the computer and give you the biggest hug right now - thank you for sharing your story here.

    1. Doesn't it just irritate the snot out of you when people just toss around the word Munchhausen?

  3. Skirts from That Other BlogJune 13, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Oh ShellieB, life can be so hard sometimes. Sending a big {hug} to you! After things settle down, I hope you will make time to get your teeth worked on, just so you don't have to endure the pain/infections you've dealt with for so long. Tooth pain is just awful. Take care girl!

  4. Shellie,
    Sometimes the tough stuff in our lives give us insight and allows us to possible help another young person going through a similar situation have hope.
    By being so brave and telling your story, the good, the bad, and the really bad you give a voice to that young girl who feels helpless. Bless you!