I thought about writing out my story, but then I just sat there and stared at the empty word document in front of me. I don’t know exactly when it all started. In middle school I think. I remember feeling uncomfortable all the time because my pants were tight and then one day in the cafeteria an older girl called me fat. That stuck with me.
I remember lying awake at night and dreaming of ways to be thin. My sister got really sick one year and she dropped a ton of weight and I remember wishing that it had been me because then I would have lost weight. And I remember sitting up wishing that someone would choose me to do some extreme makeover thing and give me lipo or something. And then on the really bad days I would just sit there and think about my mom’s big knife… how I could chop off my fat with that… thank God I never was brave enough to try it.
This went on for years. I remember I would tell myself that I was finally going to start a diet the next day. Each day I would fail, end up in tears, and determine to try again the next day. Eventually, in high school, I learned that it was easier if I simply didn’t eat at all. At first I would go part of a day, then binge the second half. Eventually I got up to doing a whole day without eating, but then the next day I would slip up and binge like crazy. Then days turned into weeks and at the very end I had gone an entire month without eating anything other than sips of juice and saltine crackers when I couldn’t take it anymore.
The reason this stopped is because I got very very very sick at play practice one night when I was a junior in high school. I was sitting with my boyfriend of the time playing huggy-bear-kissy-face when I started to shake violently. I shook so hard. Remember my eyes rolled into the back of my head. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, all I could feel was the uncontrollable shaking. I knew that Dan was still holding me, but I had no control over my body. When I sort of calmed down, the shaking had at least lessened; I took note of my friends all around me. They were scared. I was so upset, not because I had scared them, but because now they knew it would be too hard to keep my secret after that.
After that everyone knew what was going on. Before it had been easy to hide; I told my parents that I wasn’t hungry in the morning, I told my friends I wasn’t hungry at lunch, and for dinner I told my friends that I was going to eat at home and I told my parents that I had eaten with my friends. That didn’t fly anymore after the incident at play practice. After that they would make sure I ate. They would give me food and sit there and watch me eat. It was so painful. So I ate. And I was upset so I started to binge. But then I felt dirty and gross… and I found other ways to take care of my little problem.
I really don’t remember the first time I purged. I know I was seventeen. I probably stood in the bathroom after a particularly bad binge, feeling gross and nauseous. I think I probably gagged once or twice, got scared and called that good enough. But then a little while later I tried again, and again, and again, until I managed to do it. And eventually there was less and less time in between each attempt.
I tried to stop over the years. I told myself that I could, but I never really managed it. I always would try but then I would binge and once again I would find myself standing over the toilet with a finger down my throat. I hated myself so much that I was willing to kill myself to change. How sick is that? But I still understand that feeling. Even after seven months of recovery I still feel the urge, I don’t really think it is anything that will ever go away.
I drank heavily because it made everything easier. Freshman year of college I went to a party with a friend who said she would take care of me. How stupid was I to trust someone I had only known for a little over a month? Well, taking care of me consisted of her supplying a steady stream of vodka until I was passed out drunk. I don’t really remember much. I remember lying in a bed and someone over me, but that is it.
The next morning I was sore and hurt in ways that I never should have. No matter how rambunctious I had been the night before I should have never hurt the way I did that morning. And then I didn’t get my period for four months. When I talked to the girl I had gone to the party with, to ask her if anything had happened to me, she belittled me, telling me I was stupid for thinking anything like that and then she went and told all of our shared friends how pathetic she thought I was being.
When I finally got my period it was the most painful experience of my life. It was awful. And the cramps were unbearable. I don’t know for sure what happened back then, but I have a good guess. After that the bulimia got so much worse. I got severely depressed. I ate to feel better, but then I felt guilty for eating and made myself vomit which made me feel even worse so I started eating again. I gained weight because bulimics who binge and purge can only get rid of about %15 of what they take in.
I drank more heavily. I buried myself in my illness and in my lies that kept my illness secret. No one knew. Until that summer. The summer between freshman and sophomore year I went home to live with my parents. I worked 16 hour days and then partied all night with maybe an hour or two break to sleep. Eventually I crashed and by the time I ‘woke up’ again I was so far gone down the proverbial rabbit hole that there was no coming back.
I went to the doctor and they put me on anti-depressants. But I felt guilty for being on them. I felt weak. Because I had always believed that if you are sad you should grab your bootstraps and get over it. But I couldn’t just get over it. So I stayed on my meds for a year before finally weaning myself off. In that time I continued to binge and although I was still purging I was purging less and less. Everyone knew that I had a problem with bulimia, but they all thought it was past tense, they had no idea that it was still such a part of my everyday life.
A few more years passed. I got depressed again, but felt like I had no right to be so I ignored it as best as possible, putting on a happy face for everyone to see. I played my role perfectly. If anyone suspected that I wasn’t okay they didn’t say anything. I think I made myself unapproachable on purpose, so that even if someone saw beneath my mask they couldn’t say anything to me about it. I was totally closed off.
I had close friends, but I am ashamed to say that I lied to all of them. But then junior year of college I went out drinking with some friends and got way out of hand. I had something like nine or ten cocktails before I started forcing myself to vomit in a public restroom. I puked so many times that night that I finally vomited up blood. I scared the living shit out of myself.
After that I stopped. I quit drinking, I quit purging. I had to get better. But I couldn’t seem to control the binging and so I continued to gain weight. I lasted something like four months. But then I went to Korea as part of a study abroad trip. I was there for four months and although it was amazing and wonderful I also had a really hard time. See in Korea there is a huge pressure to be thin. Everyone must be, it is just the way it is. And I was stared at so much. Mostly for being white, but I felt like it was because I was fat. Many of the girls on my floor of the dorm were bulimic, you could hear them in the bathroom late at night. And that was triggering for me. I also started drinking again. And this time when I started on my downward spiral I went so far past what I had previously thought was the bottom that I couldn’t even see the top anymore.
I came home from Korea in December of 2010. After coming home I lived with my parents for a month. During that time they went on a cruise to the Bahamas and I continued with my illness completely unchecked. In January 2011 I moved into my single dorm room. No roommate, which meant that I had no one to catch me. And the bathrooms were very private, so no one caught me there either. By February I was so sick I had taken to sneaking away from friends or family just to purge.
I would purge after a normal meal. Binging was practically non-existent for me, but still I would purge six or seven times every time I ate. I lost a bit of weight, but what scared me was how out of control I felt. It wasn’t like before when I only lost control when drunk… now I realized that I never had control at all.
I called my mom. I asked her to pray for me because I was having trouble again. She asked me if I was purging again… and I said no. That was the last time I lied to keep my secret. After that I called my sister and told her everything. The moment it was out of my mouth I wanted to take it back. I felt like I had given up a part of me, and that now I was naked and broken.
The next time I called my mom I told her exactly what was going on and together we agreed that I needed help, that I couldn’t keep doing this on my own. I started going to therapy. Seeing a councilor. I kept a food journal. February 25, 2011 was the last time I purged.
Recovery has been the most harrowing experience of my life. I sort of gave up on life for a while. Personal relationships faded, I stopped going to class, talking to friends and family. In the end I failed one class and nearly failed another. The two classes that I managed to scrape B’s in that semester were taught by professors who noticed that something was wrong and cornered me about it. They really helped me get better.
But as time went by I kept hurting myself, just in different ways. I had quit drinking and quit binging and purging, but I found other ways. What it was is that I was constantly thinking about the bulimia and I just wanted a break. So I took a foot file, the kind that sort of looks like a cheese grater and I started filing off my skin. I would go sit in the tub and file away at my skin until blood ran freely and colored the water. I always hid the cuts or lied about them. Sometimes I still think about that, when the urge to purge becomes too much, but I recognize how unhealthy it was.
The summer passed. I worked like crazy. In July I got really sick. I had gone back on anti-depressants shortly after entering therapy, but I still felt ashamed of being on them. I let myself slide on taking them which sent me into a severe prescription withdrawal. In one week I fainted at one of my jobs, quit my other one, and finally got on the correct dose of prescriptions. It was awful.
I felt so scared and alone, but eventually I pulled myself together. I started doing things to help others because I found that that helps me. I still have down days, but most of the time I am better able to function and it is only after I over eat that I long to purge anymore. I don’t think you ever stop being a bulimic. Sort of like being an alcoholic, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. I’m getting better, but it is something I will always have to deal with. A dark secret that I will always have to live with… but it doesn’t always have to control me.