Special Report: Wrestling the Voices

Sometimes what we see in the mirror isn’t what others see.

How we perceive ourselves can be the aftermath of the voices we hear in our head.

For some it can become a life or death situation. Especially for Shyann Ronning, a 20-year-old wrestler at Adrian College.

Her room is filled with trophies and medals from her time as an athlete at Manistee High School.

Growing up, Shyann looked like a normal teenager.

“Until my summer of my sophomore year I decided to lead more of a nutritious fitness life style,” said Shyann.

As a wrestler, Shyann became obsessed with achieving and maintaining the so-called “perfect” weight.

“People noticed I was losing weight but they thought I looked good,” said Shyann.

In three months Shyann’s weight dropped from 130 pounds to 94.

When Shyann looked into the mirror she didn’t see what everyone else could see.

“What I seen was fat, just obesity, I didn’t see bones,” said Shyann.

She became addicted to working out and stepping on the scale.

During Shyann’s junior year of high school, she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

Katie Dye, physician’s assistant at Munson Health Care Manistee Hospital says anorexia is typically characterized by reduced caloric intake.

“A purposeful caloric reduction for the main reason of someone having the fear of gaining weight,” said Dye.

Shyann describes anorexia as a battle between voices.

“I have one voice telling me that I am fat and ugly and other voice telling me ‘No Shyann, you’re not. You’re not fat, you’re not ugly,’” said Shyann.

But it wasn’t until Shyann was hospitalized that she understood the severity of her diagnosis.

“She said she was going to go for a run, she did for an hour, came in, and she hit the floor. No response,” said Cynthia Harper, Shyann’s mother.

“What actually caused me to be hospitalized was just my heart rate was 22 and that’s death rate,” Shyann explained.

Shyann spent three months in the hospital, splitting her time between the Helen Devos Children’s Hospital and Forest View Psychiatric Hospital, both in Grand Rapids.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking because I had my family physically watch me kill myself slowly every day,” said Shyann.

Two years later, she’s out of the hospital and still working toward recovery.

Looking at old pictures she’s reminded of how bad her disorder became.

“Wow my face is so thin. I can just tell I have nothing to me,” said Shyann.

And that’s a place, she doesn’t want to go back to.

So she’s used her goals to graduate high school and become a collegiate wrestler to silence the tormenting voices in her head.

“I kept telling myself that Shyann if you don’t do what you need to do, you won’t make it throughout life.

Being anorexic, I couldn’t wrestle, I couldn’t be a role mode to other kids,” explained Shyann.

But now she is a role model, hoping her story will help and inspire others too.

“Don’t ignore it. Get help ASAP because as days go on it’s going to progress stronger and stronger,” said Shyann.

Here are some resources if you or someone you know needs help:

Forest View Hospital in Grand Rapids

National Eating Disorders Association Helpline: 1-800-931-2237