That is how 17-year old Christina Kapusty describes her life over the last year. The desire for perfection, the self-loathing and a horrible body image resulted from years of nasty comments about her weight. As the bullying intensified, the cumulative effect became so unbearable that Christina just stopped eating. A journey began in April 2015 that would lead Christina to near-death by fall. Now back from the brink, she wants to use her experience to raise awareness about bullying and its devastating impact, while encouraging an open discussion on mental health issues.
Starving, binge eating, blacking out, a racing heart and the slow shutting down of her organs to a point where her heart rate was only 19 beats per minute describes the terrifying ordeal that Christina, and her family, underwent over the course of six devastating months in 2015. Years of progressive bullying had taken its toll, making Christina emotionally fragile and defensive. Motivated by her experience, Christina sought and won the title of Miss Teenage Burlington in February 2016, and with that position wants to help reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage other teenagers to get the help they need.
“Mental illness is like any other disease; it can be treated, and you can recover, but you have to get help and not be afraid or embarrassed. No one should go through what I did. I didn’t understand what was happening to me or to my body. I didn’t understand that not eating would damage my organs and could cause my death. I just wanted to lose weight so the bullying would stop.”
– Christina Kapusty
After twice being sent home by her local hospital, Christina was so terrified, weak and afraid of dying that she asked to go to McMaster Children’s Hospital. As she walked through the doors she nearly collapsed. As a result, she was in triage within minutes, and shortly thereafter was told that she would need to stay; she was too sick to go home. Severely malnourished and dehydrated, Christina’s organs were slowly shutting down; her heart rate was in the 30s. Being admitted to McMaster Children’s Hospital that August 25 saved and changed Christina’s life. Her journey was often harrowing with both the treatment and recovery having many ups and downs along the way. Christina had to get worse before she got better.
A team of specialists in eating disorders lead by Dr. Christina Grant, and a range of other specialists including pediatric cardiologist Dr. Claudia Almeida were responsible for Christina’s care. Restoring her physical health was critical before the team could work with Christina to address the underlying causes of her illness. Six months after discharge, her body has recovered, and emotionally she is stronger than ever. With the support of her family, Christina wanted to be public about her experience. By doing so, Christina has already helped two others to get help rather than killing themselves.
Giving back to McMaster Children’s Hospital and the team that saved her life, while also being very public about both bullying and mental illness has given purpose to Christina Kapusty, Miss Teenage Burlington. “Someone has to… not hide it, so that people can reach out for help.” That is the message that Christina wants to deliver and she will use her experience and title to do so, even as she works to graduate from high school this spring, and compete for Miss Teen Canada in July.
Watch Christina’s video below: