To cure myself of anorexia, I needed a diet plan, one that was clear and structured and that I could convince myself was a normal human diet. That was important, because I knew that as soon as I started eating more, my mind would tell me I’d binged and I’d feel horrible about myself. So I had to find a diet that definitely couldn’t count as a binge.
When I arrived at my family home in San Diego, I did my longest fast yet: a seven-day fruit juice fast. My Mom, ever kind and obliging, bought me a bulk pack of Odwalla smoothies. But I was angry and distant, and when my fast ended, I waited until everyone fell asleep and emptied the pantry with binges. Deeply ashamed, I searched again for escape. I thought if I could control my environment by restricting my access to food, I could control my binges. Escape came in the form of a newspaper I saw on our coffee table, whose headline read, “Fires in Helena, Montana.” Later that day, I absentmindedly picked up an old western from a bookshelf and flipped to a random page. The first word I saw was the name “Helena.” In my desperation, I took them as signs telling me to go to Montana.