Remembering a Germantown girl who lost her battle

Nearly five years after Chrissie Carrigan’s suicide, her mother looks back on her daughter’s life and struggle with anorexia

Wednesday, June 14, 2006






Kathie Carrigan still gets e-mails from women who used to chat with her daughter Chrissie on the Internet about their struggles with eating disorders. One still sends Carrigan small gifts on Chrissie’s birthday.

It’s been nearly five years since Dec. 6, 2001, when Chrissie, a girl who loved writing poetry and was in the peace club at school, killed herself in her bedroom in the family’s Germantown home — 11 months after she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

‘‘Talking with them, I learned about the side of Chrissie that I didn’t know,” Carrigan said of the women on the anorexia chat groups. ‘‘They were cheering her on. Telling her that she could beat this.”

But the family wasn’t aware that Chrissie’s psychologist, whom she was seeing for anorexia and depression, had suggested to her several months earlier that she might have a multiple-personality disorder.

It turned out to be true.

The strongest personality was Ana, the anorexic, who the family believes took control the evening Chrissie died.

Kathie Carrigan and her husband, David Carrigan, learned of the personalities when county police showed them 13 journals Chrissie filled in different handwriting starting in January 2001.

‘‘It just threw me for a loop,” Kathie Carrigan told The Gazette recently. ‘‘I just thought she was being a stubborn teenager. But it was more than just a stubborn teenager.”

Chrissie’s eating disorder first presented itself when she was in sixth grade.

‘‘She got real picky about what she was eating,” Kathie Carrigan said. ‘‘We noticed that she was pushing the food around to make it look like she was eating.”

In January 2001, the same month she started keeping the journals, Chrissie was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.

She visited Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville once a week to be weighed and to check up on her eating habits.

‘‘She’d say she was too depressed to eat,” said Carrigan, who wears a photograph of a smiling Chrissie around her neck.

Depression can develop into an eating disorder, said Carolyn Weiss, an advanced practice registered nurse at the Suburban Center for Eating Disorders and Adolescent Obesity in Bethesda, which is affiliated with Suburban Hospital. Many people with eating disorders experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse and childhood sexual abuse, according to the Women’s Health Office with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tina Malament, 19, who grew up in Gaithersburg and struggles with an eating disorder, also has suffered from depression since early in her life.

‘‘It messes with your appetite and your perception,” she said of depression. ‘‘And your perception of yourself.”

She has been in therapy since 2004 and is focused on maintaining her weight.

Kathie and David Carrigan dream of starting a place for girls with eating disorders to receive treatment. They talk about calling it ‘‘Chrissie’s Cottage.”

The family also supports depression screening for children in high school.

For now, they remember Chrissie in other ways. Kathie Carrigan and Trevia Colwell, Chrissie’s older sister, have devoted several Web sites to Chrissie. They are more than a place to mourn her death — visitors can read Chrissie’s poetry and see some of her favorite things.

Shortly after Chrissie died, Kathie Carrigan found her daughter’s Web page on LiveJournal.com, a place where users can post free blogs, which are like online diaries. The blogs allow the owner to communicate with others on the site.

This is where Carrigan learned the most about her daughter, who was a sophomore at Northwest High School in Germantown.

At one point, Carrigan said, she was getting more than 40 e-mails a day.

The blog has become a memorial to Chrissie, whose nickname was ‘‘Jade Green,” her favorite color.

One girl, who identified herself as ‘‘vikkilynn” and often corresponded with Chrissie, wrote that her decision to seek treatment for her eating disorder was due in large part to the girl she called Jade.

‘‘I just want to say ‘thank you’ to Jade for having an impact on me and helping me decide to get better,” she wrote. ‘‘I bet she is smiling down on us from heaven whenever we make a decision to treat ourselves kindly and fight back against the eating disorder. ... You can show her love and respect by treating yourself with much love and kindness, the way she would’ve treated you.”