*Editor’s note: the following post may be triggering to those with disordered eating.
It is so easy to shrug off one’s own experiences, to frame them in a way where they don’t sound so awful or as extreme as they were or could’ve been.
Realistically speaking, I’ve had quite a mixed life, worse than a lot, better than most, so it’s easy to just dismiss the bad things because if I compare it to the experiences that I get to read about or see in documentaries, well then, I’ve had it relatively easy. In this case, I’m talking about my eating disorder.
Back in the high of my eating disorder I never ended up in the hospital, I never passed out or went days without eating, so for many years I dismissed my problem. I could always find an excuse to ever so casually purge or starve myself. I figured that as long as I didn’t end up under medical care, it wasn’t much of a problem. I mean, I knew what I was doing was bad but as long as I didn’t do it all the time it was OK, right? Well, no.
I started purging when my mom almost died. I must’ve been 14 and she was very ill. One day my dad and I were having a disagreement about something silly and all of the sudden he exploded and asked me how I could be arguing about nothing when my mom was about to die. I don’t think I answered but things kind of went downhill from there. My mom didn’t die but by the time she was out of the woods I was in full-blown starvation mode. I am aware that my dad exploding on me had nothing to do with my eating disorder, it was just the little push I “needed” after years of hating my body. Really parents, never tell your kids that boys or girls don’t like fatties when your kid is reaching for that second triple sandwich or what have you. Stuff like that sticks to your child for a lifetime. But anyway back to 14-year-old me. One day, not long after what now shall be called the “dad explosion” I over-ate. I was feeling too full and uncomfortable and I thought that a little purging would help me feel so much better. Then about a week later I did it again and so on until I was purging on a daily basis, not everything I ate of course because in my mind that would just send me to the hospital sooner rather than later. Then, not long after that I’d sneak around my parents to not eat for most of the day. I’d eat only a fruit at breakfast and then wait until dinner. Maybe I’d drink a bit of yoghurt to feel less crappy but then after dinner I’d purge. I lost a lot of weight but I have no idea how much I weighed. I know my ribs were sticking out, my skin was yellow-ish and my hair was falling off in chunks but I still felt fat. I was sort of lucky, though, and soon we moved to another state. My mom was healthy again and she noticed something was “off” with me. She started spying on me so I started eating better but one day she caught me purging and all hell broke loose. We had a huge fight in which she threatened to fatten me up unless I quit my bullshit; I am quoting her there. It sort of worked, I stopped purging for a whole month and then I fell back into it just that I was so much more careful this time. When I was at work or school I’d still skip meals as often as possible and if I got really hungry and over-ate I’d sneak to the bathroom to purge. Of course, since I was trying to be careful I’d only over-eat at restaurants where I could just excuse myself to the restroom without fear of my mom spying on me. I was still a wreck. I still hated my body. I still thought I was fat and ugly and fundamentally unlovable but even then I kept making up excuses. I still thought everything was peachy and I only did some less than pleasant things to deal with my weight. Somehow I put skipping meals and the occasional purging in the same level as exercising.
At age 20 I decided to admit I had a problem. I had just gone through a very messy, emotionally abusive relationship and I was at a loss. I didn’t know why I had embarked in several relationships with very damaged people but I knew something was wrong. I noticed I was not my biggest fan to put it mildly and I realized among many other things that I had an eating disorder. That didn’t cure me but it made me admit to myself that even though I had never been as bad off as I could’ve been; I still suffered from bulimia and anorexia. I surfed the net for support forums, I tried reading self-help books, I talked about my problems but nothing really “fixed” me. The only thing that really helped me was love, patience and time. I allowed myself to be me, all of me even if it was and still is with just one person. Realizing that no matter how much I opened myself or how I looked or how much I weighed, there was still someone that loved me unconditionally helped me admit to myself that I am a lovable person. Don’t get me wrong, my salvation was not my husband. He helped me by being there for me but I was the one that admitted to myself that I was not half bad. I was the one that stood up to my parents when they were criticizing my looks yet again and told them I was happy just the way I was. I told them how much their words had hurt me while I was growing up and even though they never admitted to saying the words they did, I still stood up to them and they’ve backed down quite a lot. I am the one that still fights the urges every once in a while, that lets those closest to me know to please keep an eye on me for a few days.
I’m not perfect. I will probably still slip but the first step really is admitting that there’s a problem, otherwise there’s nothing to deal with.