This blog is my space, I tell a lot of stories here, I talk about a lot of things. I’ve been open about my politics, my not-so-familial relationship with my bio-dad, and my relationships; those are the things I’m not afraid to talk to you about, those are the things I can be strong about.
When I write about my bio-dad, you send messages of support.
When I write about my politics, you cheer me on.
When I write about my relationships, you say how brave I am to be so open about these things.
What I don’t write about, what I’ve never been able to write about, is much darker and there’s no reason to send support, in fact you probably think that I choose to be this way. Today my friend, and constant source of inspiration Jen, shared her truth with the world and in doing so inspired me to do the same. So here goes…
Today sitting in my doctor’s office he asked, “How long have you had an eating disorder?” I felt my face go hot, I knew it was red, my pulse jumped a little, and I barely managed to eke out, “Since college.” My voice which is normally so loud and commanding, sounded like a child’s. I sat there, in the cold, white, room and I hated myself. How could I sound so weak? I put that weakness away years ago. I wasn’t even there to talk about that, it’s not that big of an issue any more. I don’t take straws out of my drink as I walk to the bathroom, not anymore, or not as often. The only clues he had were that I refused to let them weigh me, and my esophageal ulcers had gotten worse.
“How often is the vomiting self-induced?” He was saying more words I didn’t want to hear, “Sometimes… but it’s better than it used to be.” I say all this knowing that last night I sat on the cold floor in my bathroom and stuck a toothbrush down my throat, for maybe the millionth time. It hurts at first, but then there’s the release, there is the knowledge that I am in control. Logically I know it’s the complete opposite of control but in the moment, I don’t believe that. I don’t want to. My throat is raw today and I had a kale salad for lunch, thinking that if I eat raw and vegan I won’t want to punish myself. So far today, that’s been true.
It may be months before I have another episode; it could be days. I don’t like this part of myself, I’m not proud that I have an eating disorder, but it’s been a long time and I don’t know how else to be.
In second year, when I was at my worst, a counsellor explained to me that it’s an obsessive behaviour often associated with OCD. Wikipedia tells me I could be genetically predisposed or that the media could have made me this way; I don’t know how I feel about putting the blame on genes or the media, I just know that this is how I am. I work at it, daily. There are good days and there are bad, those closest to me know how to spot the warning signs.
Sometimes my bulimia leaves me paralyzed by numbers, I don’t own a scale because if I stepped on it naked (clothes add weight) before my shower in the morning and I wasn’t happy, I’d be setting myself up for a day of purging. I don’t buy clothes in any sizes that would upset me. The fit is smaller than regular clothes? No, thanks. How many things have I put in my body today, was it an acceptable number or not? Where is my second toothbrush? The one that I never brush my teeth with. If I can just sit still for 60 minutes then I’ll be OK. Numbers help me keep control over the thing that I sometimes think puts me in control. It doesn’t, but logic doesn’t play into this particular disease.
Before I finally approached my doctor about what I would later learn were my ulcers; I refused to see anyone about the constant nausea and vomiting that was plaguing me after meals because I assumed it was my fault. Years of bulimia had made my stomach revolt against me, I thought. A ridiculous notion that kept me from seeking treatment. Knowing that I had an ‘actual’ illness somehow made me feel better but when the treatment didn’t work, it became easier for me to induce vomiting because sometimes the nausea was too much to deal with. I have a new treatment now that I hope works but I don’t assume that it will heal all of me. My ulcers may have a treatment plan but the treatment for bulimia is time and counselling and that’s a much harder pill to swallow.
So here I sit, inspired by the strength of my friend, not asking you for anything but acceptance. I hope tomorrow is easier than yesterday.