Kid Rex: The inspiring true account of a life salvaged from despair, anorexia and dark days in New York Cityby Laura Moisin
Kid Rex is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome anorexia. After knowing other friends with anorexia and being baffled by their behavior (often wondering, “Why doesn’t she just eat?!”) Moisin suddenly found herself prone to the same disease, not eating at all and going weeks at a time taking in nothing but water and the/cite>
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Kid Rex is the story of one woman’s struggle to overcome anorexia. After knowing other friends with anorexia and being baffled by their behavior (often wondering, “Why doesn’t she just eat?!”) Moisin suddenly found herself prone to the same disease, not eating at all and going weeks at a time taking in nothing but water and the occasional black coffee. She learns how to deceive the therapists her worried family sends her to, giving them all of the symptoms of depression so they’ll misdiagnose her and let her continue to be anorexic.
When she recognizes that she has a serious problem, though, she finally owns up to a therapist working at her university. She tells him that she’s an anorexic who needs to go to some group meetings to work through her condition. He looks at her doubtfully and says, “No, I don’t think you’re an anorexic.” All that runs through her mind is that she must be fat. Shortly after this devastating therapy visit, the Twin Towers fall in the September 11th attacks, and Moisin watches it happen from her apartment window. Her ensuing depression quickens her already dangerous downward spiral.
Kid Rex is a book about hope, and looking to oneself and to those around you to help get out from under the hold of such a dreadful and powerful disease. This book is written for people who are also suffering from anorexia to let them know they’re not alone, but Moisin never takes on a know-it-all tone. Books on anorexia that are currently available are either preachy, or more commonly, clinical accounts written by doctors, not people suffering from the disease.
The book is also written for families and friends who find themselves unable to understand why their loved one won’t just eat. When Moisin goes to a clinic and they plop down a tray of food in front of her, even the most sceptical reader will gasp and realize what an unsympathetic thing they’ve done to her. Moisin actually puts the reader into the head of someone suffering from anorexia, in beautiful and moving prose. The result is a book that is truly unforgettable.
The subtitle says it all. As a young woman, Moisin was ravaged by anorexia made worse by depression and posttraumatic stress after she witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Her vivid depictions of those conditions are so compelling that readers will feel as though they, too, are experiencing trauma. Luckily, Moisin transcends darkness to discover the possibilities of life. Other survivors and sufferers will appreciate her story.
"Harrowing and always candid, Moisin draws a clear map of her anorexic mind and heart. A book for survivors of anorexia, as well those who want to understand a completely misrepresented and misunderstood disease." Ibi Kaslik, author, Skinny
"A heartwrenching, honest and beautiful book written by someone who has been there and has lived to tell about it." Bookshipper
"An inspirational book for anyone else dealing with similar dangerous behaviours." Shelf Life
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Read an Excerpt
The Inspiring True Account of A Life Salvaged From Anorexia, Despair and Dark Days in New York City
By Laura Moisin
ECW PRESSCopyright © 2008 Laura Moisin
All rights reserved.
Two Blocks Below Canal
Lo and behold—what is the latest nutritional value of salvation?
Save the Rainforest, Reindeer, Rain Makers, on every back-boxed, industrialized carton of cereal.
Aisle for aisle, pound for pound, with each roaring, deafening, thunder-smash pour of ultra-pasteurized, ultra-sanitized milk. Spoonful by spoonful. How, then, should I save myself if this chomping existence is based solely on consumption and reduction? Energy burner and calorie counter alike, one and all—it's the new price for simulated opportunity.
My life in Chinatown marked the early stages of my disorienting anorexic existence. The summer I was set to return to NYU for my sophomore year I got a letter informing me I would be living with my freshman year roommate, Miranda, my best friend Stella, and a fourth person we didn't yet know. I also found out that my apartment was at Lafayette and White streets, in the heart of Chinatown. I had stayed in Chinatown only once with my mom, the summer of my freshman year orientation, and we'd both been a little frightened by our experience. We quickly switched our accommodations upon taking one good look at the dingy, narrow, winding streets. People navigated them so naturally compared to us. Going into my sophomore year and already somewhat accustomed to the eccentricities of New York City, I was decidedly less worried about my surroundings and more concerned about the number of people I could fit into my new apartment for parties.
On the first day of my Chinatown life, we packed the family SUV with my college belongings. I drove from Boston to New York with my parents, my sister Francesca, or Fran, and her boyfriend, Rick. My boyfriend Josh had just begun his senior year at JMU and was unable to accompany us. While Rick helped my dad with the heavy lifting and moving, my mom and Fran helped me put my clothes and books neatly away. We had to work around the wreckage Stella had wrought during a party she'd hosted the night before. The rest of the apartment was a perfect picture of college chaos, complete with overflowing garbage cans, discarded beer cups, an empty fridge, strangers passed out on the couch, and loud music blasting from the other bedrooms. This was a picture of the lifestyle I would live all year, and the rest of that day would prove to be similarly symbolic.
While eating lunch with my dad at a nearby restaurant Rick found a clump of hair in his garlic chicken that forever spoiled his taste for Chinatown. As I unpacked with my mom and Fran they munched on sandwiches that I refused to touch. I remember their puzzled looks about my attitude: skipping a meal because I was too busy was normal. Part of me knew, however, that this desire to refuse food was not born solely from my eagerness to get settled. But at that point, I didn't understand what was really happening.
Life in Chinatown was erratic. As soon as my family left, my friends from freshman year began to trickle in, and before long we were all camped out on the wood floor catching up and drinking. The people who'd been there a week were already living off of McDonald's takeout. Apparently McDonald's would deliver to residents of Chinatown, though, at the time, they did not deliver to any other part of Manhattan. None of us knew why exactly delivery was available exclusively to our neighborhood, but most of my friends agreed that it was a welcome convenience.
Those few days before the commencement of classes were spent in disarray. I liked to think that I was living a cool bohemian life. In fact, anytime I feared my lifestyle might be destructive, I excused it by calling it "boho," "hipster," or "indie." I liked the fact that my apartment was a mess, that there was never any food in the fridge, and that people were camped permanently on our sofa, loveseat, armchair, and floor. There was so little space and so many vagabonds. I liked the fact that I could go out and party as much as I wanted and still manage to wake up and accomplish daily tasks.
Freshman year had seemed so long and challenging, as I tried to figure things out, adapt to my surroundings, and make friends. But by sophomore year I had only one goal: party as much as possible and still do well in school. That year went by like a blurry dream. For a while my plan worked. I went out almost every night, had fun with my friends, and continued to perform well in my most difficult classes. I seemed to have a never-ending supply of energy, but in the rare moments when I paused and tried to look inward I knew something was seriously, dangerously amiss. I was afraid to admit that the real source of my boundless energy was my developing addiction to starvation. Infatuated with anorexia, it started to become my drug, and like most drugs will, it lit an artificial fire within me.
My addiction really began that year in Chinatown. The high my anorexia gave me, along with self-confidence, self-worth, and freedom I felt when not eating, made it seem like I was in control of everything. While everyone around me required food on a regular basis, I was strong enough to need none.
A few times, late at night, I remembered an intervention that had taken place at my old high school in Newton. I had been nearly dragged into the assistant head mistress's office and interrogated about my abstinence from eating. By then, my senior year of high school, I had built a very rigid lifestyle that was beginning to crack.
I realize now the problem was that I felt I had to be the best at everything I did: in high school it was academics; in college it was starvation. One problem bled into the other, because loading my high school schedule with the most difficult classes and indulging a need to get A's left me with little time for sleeping or eating. Eating, during my senior year of high school and for the first time in my life, had become an option and not a requirement. I began to do my homework on the treadmill, thinking that it would alleviate my constant anxiety.
My parents had been at a loss for what to do. My dad had begged me not to move to New York, failing to realize that my problem was internal and would manifest itself regardless of where I lived. After the intensity of my last semester at Newton, he wanted me close by where I could be monitored, but I didn't heed his requests. For several years he occasionally blamed my mom for "Letting Laura move to that stupid city!"
In Chinatown, in my bed, these thoughts sometimes crept into my head just as I was about to finally fall asleep. Sleep was my most dreaded time, when loud friends, alcohol, and even schoolwork didn't surround and distract me. I was completely alone with thoughts that were becoming steadily more aggressive. I didn't know why exactly, but food now felt like my biggest enemy and rejecting it felt like my greatest strength. But I knew there was a direct correlation between my fasting and the amount of time I spent obsessing over food. This had never happened to me before.
I had always prided myself on my ability to focus on important issues like schoolwork, my family, and topics that I was passionate about, things that make the people closest to me affectionately refer to me as a "big dork." People would make faces when I contemplated aloud the destruction of the Amazon, wondered who the true constructors of the pyramids were (my aunt Lia still maintains there was some alien influence involved), and whether Einstein's theories would all stand the test of time. I had never before committed my thoughts and actions to something as seemingly insignificant as my diet. Now it was nearly all I could think about, and I was disturbed by my helplessness in the face of this mania. The more I starved myself, the more I thought about it, and the more afraid I became.
I began to hate food. I hated the fact that food was such a large part of college life. Going out to dinner was often the only time to catch up with friends, and skipping this important ritual meant being left out of the loop. Missing meals also made people notice my behavior and increased their curiosity. I was grateful for my one saving grace: among my friends, it was considered very uncool to meddle with someone else's decisions. Advice was never offered unless it was asked for. This laissez-faire approach applied under even the most extreme circumstances, and the boundary wasn't crossed unless someone specifically demanded help. Anyone who didn't abide by the unspoken rule was immediately ousted from our group. At NYU nearly everyone acted irresponsibly at some time, in some way. So although my roommates picked up on my starvation trend, they held their tongues.
At the start of my second semester of sophomore year my odd eating habits, which had once been considered merely "quirky," now spiraled out of control. Attempting to fool myself and others into thinking I had eaten, I began to pick mercilessly at my food until it was almost unrecognizable. I knew my behavior was disgusting and turned my roommates off, yet I simply couldn't stop tearing apart my meals. A force compelled me to destroy nearly every food item I encountered, and this obsession would not cease until I had completed my task. Once in a while I could open the fridge, see something I wanted to pick apart, and find the strength to walk away, but I was then haunted by my inaction for the rest of the day. In class, conversing with friends, or lying in bed at night, I could think of nothing else. And I inevitably went back to demolish what I'd left intact, eat tiny portions of the resulting crumb mixture, then angrily tear at the rest until it no longer resembled anything edible.
Muffins became my favorite thing to break apart. I developed a routine that was comforting and almost loving, which involved purchasing a muffin at the downstairs deli, putting it in my fridge, and then returning hours later to gently open up its cellophane wrapper, place it slowly on the nearby counter, and, with nobody looking, tear it bit by bit into a crumbly mess. Sometimes I put a few crumbs in my mouth before balling the scraps back into their wrapper and sticking this mess in the fridge, thus finishing the job. I couldn't quite figure out whether I did this to the muffin because I hated or loved it. Now I know it was both. They had been one of my favorite foods, and I hated that about them.
Later when I went to Renfrew, which is a treatment center for women and girls who suffer from eating disorders, the doctors and staff prohibited us from giving in to our "rituals." That was the first time I heard of behavior similar to my own, and I timidly asked some of the girls at my table if they'd ever experienced anything like my "muffin syndrome." About half of them had, even though it wasn't their ritual of choice, while several others were just like me—they compulsively, obsessively picked apart all food. These were the rituals that made up our fanatical religion.
Thankfully, muffins were not part of the Renfrew diet, and I've had no contact with a muffin since my sophomore year of college. If I came across a muffin now, I'd like to think I could bite into it the way most people do, but I know it would probably light some of the old fires in me.
I was foolish enough in Chinatown to think my roommates either wouldn't notice the small packages I left behind, or wouldn't care. I even thought that maybe they would understand. But how could that be, since I, myself, could not begin to comprehend why I was doing it. Most of the time my friends said nothing, but I knew what their sideways looks meant. My roommate, Miranda, was the most vocal with her grievances. She usually didn't confront me directly, but would rather pull out a clump of muffin crumbs and state with a sigh to the room in general, "Gee, I wonder who did this." I can't say I blame her for being annoyed. To her, my contamination of the community fridge must have seemed like the epitome of strange, selfish behavior. I was even annoying myself.
My lack of control and comprehension kept me quiet, and I simply weathered all the indirect abuse my friends aimed at me. Soon the members of my wider circle of friends also grew suspicious of my emaciated body, and they began to inspect me circuitously. I always pretended not to notice, and still no one said anything to me directly. A few times acquaintances commented on how I looked too skinny, but I waved those worries off or deflected them with jokes.
Our fourth roommate, Thaana, moved out during the second part of second semester, and a new girl, Cindy, took her place. None of us knew why, exactly, Thaana had left, but we could only guess her conservative Indian upbringing clashed with our insane living habits. Most nights our apartment seemed like a safe house for drunken friends and strangers. I suppose it also didn't help that we regularly kidnapped Thaana's childhood Scooby-Doo stuffed animal, put a condom on his puffy tail, took pictures of him performing obscene acts, and left these on her pillow every so often as some kind of bizarre ransom. We thought it was hysterical that Thaana would choose to go to bed before midnight on a Tuesday. Her life simply didn't mesh with our sacred rules of partying, and none of us were entirely surprised when she finally decided to leave.
Cindy, my new suite mate, partied with us once in a while but mostly kept to herself. We did, however, have something else in common. We silently acknowledged it, but only mentioned it to each other once or twice in passing. Cindy was athletic, very thin, and had odd eating habits. After a month or so her food completely disappeared from the fridge and was replaced by a bottle of diet pills on her desk. One morning she asked to borrow my jeans, and when she put them on we realized we were the same size. That day, a barrier was broken.
One afternoon I ran into her on campus and she informed me that she'd stopped getting her period. I had recently stopped having menstrual cycles as well, and told her so. We both knew our lifestyles were changing us biologically, but neither of us was alarmed. We sat there chatting about it as though discussing the weather. When I asked her about the diet pills, she told me they gave her energy, something she greatly needed to keep up with her athletic activities. They weren't addictive, she told me, or dangerous. They were simply useful and "necessary."
The next morning I bought my own bottle of diet pills, the same kind Cindy used. But unlike Cindy, I hid my pills in my drawer. Cindy and I became unlikely allies in a very dangerous game, but at the time I appreciated having somebody who could understand without judging, and who wasn't whispering along with the rest of my friends.
By the end of that school year, starvation was no longer a fun game I was playing; it was a full-blown obsession, and I was experimenting with different diet pills and exercise. I began running constantly, whenever I had the chance, even if it was three in the morning and I was exhausted. My building had a twenty-four-hour basement gym, which I used to my full disadvantage. I slowly detached myself from my family and my boyfriend Josh, which was even more unlike me. I'd always been close to my parents and sister and had never before neglected these most sacred relationships. But I was slowly learning and living by the new, harsh rules of my altered life.
As an anorexic—a label I had begun using silently to describe myself—I could not cheat on this new relationship by pursuing others at the same time. The anorexia manipulated my subconscious mind and constantly outwitted me. I realized I could stay safely trapped in my confusing vault so long as I surfaced from time to time and pretended to be a healthy person in order to reassure my family.
One night I sat in a dingy, overly crowded Times Square bar watching as everyone around me laughed hysterically at a story a casual friend had just told. He was talking about his little sister, a twelve-year-old girl who always lost interest in her food halfway through a meal. Her parents and brothers, thinking her behavior was odd but humorous, joked that she might be anorexic and had begun calling her "kid rex." I seemed to be the only person at the table who didn't find that nickname amusing. Nobody around me really knew the daily struggle I was having. And the name kid rex suddenly made me feel so terribly sad and alone that I felt the urge to hide or run out of that bar. I wanted to shout, "Some of us have problems we can't control!" or "Life isn't easy for all of us!"
Excerpted from Kid Rex by Laura Moisin. Copyright © 2008 Laura Moisin. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Laura Moisin was born in Bucharest, Romania, and has lived in Calgary, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She currently lives in Midtown Manhattan, where she is finishing her degree at New York University.
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