Two fingers and no gag reflex makes for a lot of work if you want to be bulimic.
Wait, no one wants to be bulimic, but it happens.
I spent years perfecting the quiet puke; I could do it anywhere. A crowded restaurant bathroom, an airplane lavatory, even a porta-potty if need be. If I ate it, it needed to come out.
I was twenty-ish the first time I shoved my fingers down my throat. It happened organically, having just had my heart-broken by my first love. True to the term love-sick, I found myself taking it to a literal level. I couldn’t eat, sleep or think.
I started to lose weight. The more weight I lost, the more attention I received. I needed and craved that attention. I hadn’t been in love before and was late arriving to the break-your-hymen party. (Yes, he was my first everything.) Months went by as I dropped twenty to thirty pounds. And boy oh boy this being-skinny-thing made everyone like me—just a bit more.
I ran with it; I wouldn’t eat anything. I would go days without eating anything but crackers, four of them to be exact. I found water to be an astounding filler. I could drink bottles upon bottles of it. It filled me up enough to confuse my brain with being satisfied and full. Besides, hunger became a thing of the past. A growl from my stomach meant I was doing it right. I was winning.
Within a few of months, I had perfected anorexia, or so I thought. I seemed to be able to sustain the four cracker diet and did for some time. But friends and family started to notice I wasn’t eating. I began to lie, to tell them I had just eaten or was about to go out for dinner and didn’t want to ruin my appetite. The issue is this can only go on for so long before you have to eat in front of someone. So what did my messed up brain decide to do? Eat, but make sure to get rid of it if I did.
I sat in my bathroom sobbing uncontrollably the first time. I don’t know why I was crying because I actually felt a sense of accomplishment, power. I was in control, not food; not anyone or anything could take away my power. I was in charge for the first time in my f*cked up life.
I stabbed the back of my throat with my fingers and nothing happened. I wasn’t even gagging. I was born without a gag reflex; it has its positives as I’m sure you can imagine. This moment was not one of them as far as I was concerned. I quickly learned trick after trick to bring any and all food I had consumed to hit the toilet bowl. It didn’t take long before I could vomit on command, and I was damn good at it too.
I became an addict, a junkie. My addiction was to expel anything that came close to hitting the bottom of my stomach. With each purge an overwhelming sense of relief, euphoria, pride and guilt wrapped into one remarkable emotion: power. I was in control of my body and no one could ever take that away.
It wasn’t long before my obsession became a way of life. Or was it that my way of life became my obsession? I thought of nothing else but the way my body looked. Nothing. Else. Haunted by it, I was constantly rubbing my stomach to make sure it wasn’t protruding, continually looking in the mirror to make sure I had not put on any weight. A pound on the scale meant I was a failure; I better step-up my game. I started to vomit over twenty times a day.
My disease quickly took on a life of its own. My power and control was stolen by the dysmorphic reflection in the mirror. At the lowest weight I had been since age ten, I felt fat; no, I was fat. Nothing could convince me otherwise. Bulimia reared its ugly head, whispering in my ear any chance she had. You will never be thin enough. You aren’t good enough.
She now controlled me.
For many years, every single day, bulimia and I had a love-hate relationship. She would get me to a place in which I finally felt good enough, pretty enough, thin enough. She would let me eat, but never without guilt. She owned me, and I let her. Every chance she had, she told me I was a fat disgusting pig, and I believed her. Bulimia was my drug. With every anxiety-ridden moment I found myself putting clothes on to go out. She met me there; she cooed softly in my ear. We can get you into that dress, you are in control. I will help.
It wasn’t until I became pregnant with my first child that the clutch of bulimia loosened. At this point, my body went into revolt. I hadn’t eaten properly in over five years. I had no metabolism. Everything I ate my body held onto for dear life. I ended up gaining over eighty pounds that pregnancy. The road to recovery, after my son was born, was filled with suffering but most of all with enlightenment. It took me a long time to realize that my weight does not make me who I am, nor will people like me better if I am thin.
Bulimia is a disorder that, for me, sits dormant in the far reaches of my brain. I can still hear faint whispers from time to time, but have since learned I am good enough no matter what I look like. I have thrown myself into diet and exercise and have learned a lot about eating clean. Each person who has suffered from this disorder finds his or her own way of overcoming its evil.
As a society, we have to stop shaming of any kind. I have called myself fat over and over in front of all sizes and shapes of people. I didn’t call myself fat to feel better about myself. I called myself fat because I believed it; I sometimes still do. Everyone has a story, each of us struggles with something. I make a call for no shaming, period. I don’t want to label it a certain type.
If you have an eating disorder, please talk to someone. You can find information here:
Author: Darla Halyk
Editor: Caroline Beaton